Research underlines the need for a spatiotemporal framework in plant research

According to recent research, the perspective of time and space when applied properly to plant research enhances the knowledge of biological mechanisms along with the response to the risks that endanger the life of plants globally.

Research underlines the need for a spatiotemporal framework in plant research
Understanding and describing the life of plants through the different organizational levels is one of the most complex challenges in this field of knowledge. Image Credit: University of Barcelona.

The study was carried out by Professor Sergi Munné-Bosch, from the Faculty of Biology, the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio), and the Institute for Nutrition and Food Safety (INSA) of the University of Barcelona. The research was published in the Trends in Plant Science journal.

A spatiotemporal framework for plant research

In the global change scenario, methodological constraints in plant biology are not useful in obtaining a complete picture of the processes impacting plant life.

Enhancing the understanding of plant species requires the addition of a spatiotemporal framework using scalable and integrative data that captures the biological mechanisms (like senescence, germination, or plant stress responses), from biochemical, molecular, cellular, and populational approaches.

Currently, describing and comprehending the life of plants using the various organizational levels is a major challenge. Hence, it is important to perform investigations from an integrative perspective—with disciplines like chemistry, physics, mathematics—and between individuals (intraspecific variability), and the variations between the various tissues, organs, and organelles.

In particular, we mainly focus on how and why physiological processes take place, and we do not put emphasis on when and where. As a result, the space and time reference is often lost or misapplied.”

Sergi Munné-Bosch, Professor, Faculty of Biology, Biodiversity Research Institute, University of Barcelona

Professor Sergi Munné-Bosch was recently awarded the ICREA Academia Award for the third time. Sergi Munné-Bosch is also a member of the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the UB.

The spatiotemporal scale in which the activities of the research are outspread—particularly the interactive impacts between time and space—are the major limitation that toughens this integrative view of research.

Our time scale does not match the real scale of how our planet works. This affects directly our ability to make long-term real actions that persist during several generations (time) and that are effective globally (space).”

Sergi Munné-Bosch, Professor, Faculty of Biology, Biodiversity Research Institute, University of Barcelona

Professor Sergi Munné-Bosch is one among the 2% of most influential scientists in his disciplines—the principal one in Spain in Plant Biology—concerned with the production and effect, as per Elsevier’s published database.

It is difficult to capture simultaneous images at different organization levels and follow a physiological process without leaving any details behind. In a movie, for instance, if we miss a frame, we might not be able to understand the essence of the whole movie. The same happens in research: depending on the experimental design we make, we may not be able to understand biological processes in their complexity,” adds Professor Sergi Munné-Bosch.

Changing times for plant biology

Employing novel technologies for the knowledge progress that completely involves the spatiotemporal context is the game-changer for future studies.

Professor Sergi Munné-Bosch remarks, “We need to promote methodological approaches that include the real-time and continuous obtention of images, including studies at different organization levels, from a molecular level to ecology, going through all the intermediate levels”.

Selecting the correct time framework for the investigation of plant physiology processes would impart more accurate and beneficial data in basic and applied research. These enhanced the understanding of the resistance mechanisms of long-lived trees and the soil seed germination process.

Certainly, the time factor adds a substantial complexity to the study of biological processes. However, it is not always a good reference as an individual factor. Therefore, it needs to go together with other reference frameworks to better understand the biological processes in their complexity.”

Sergi Munné-Bosch, Professor, Faculty of Biology, Biodiversity Research Institute, University of Barcelona

Currently, many research works include spatiotemporal advances of scientific interest to enhance the knowledge of the functioning of living beings and ecosystems.

Professor Sergi Munné-Bosch further adds, “But they are not enough. We need to invest more in research, specially in quality research that covers not only those biological processes of great basic and applied research, but that understands these with real spatiotemporal approaches despite its difficulty. Science should be able to understand life in all its complexity”.

The scientists anticipate a future investment in novel technologies—particularly in the application of artificial intelligence programs in plant biology—that facilitates deciphering the enigmas of the complexity of biological mechanisms, “and consequently, we hope this helps us to better coexist with the other species we share the planet with”, concluded Professor Sergi Munné-Bosch.

Source:
Journal reference:

Munné-Bosch, S. (2021) Spatiotemporal limitations in plant biology research. Trends in Plant Science. doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2021.10.005.

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