The comparison between complexity in the sense of space occupancy (box-counting fractal dimension D(c) and information dimension D1) and heterogeneity in the sense of space distribution (average evenness index f and evenness variation coefficient J(cv)) were investigated in mathematical fractal objects and natural branch structures. In general, increased fractal dimension was paired with low heterogeneity. Comparisons between branch architecture in Anthyllis cytisoides under different slope exposure and grazing impact revealed that branches were more complex and more homogeneously distributed for plants on northern exposures than southern, while grazing had no impact during a wet year. Developmental instability was also investigated by the statistical noise of the allometric relation between internode length and node order. In conclusion, our study demonstrated that fractal dimension of branch structure can be used to analyze the structural organization of plants, especially if we consider not only fractal dimension but also shoot distribution within the canopy (lacunarity). These indexes together with developmental instability analyses are good indicators of growth responses to the environment.
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Characterization of branch complexity by fractal analyses