Water Conservation Through Facilitation on Residential Landscapes
Plants can have positive effects on each other in numerous ways, including protection from harsh environmental conditions. This phenomenon, known as facilitation, occurs in water-stressed environments when shade from larger shrubs protects smaller annuals from harsh sun, enabling them to exist on scarce water. The topic of this paper is a model of this phenomenon that allows search algorithms to find residential landscape designs that incorporate facilitation to conserve water. This model is based in botany; it captures the growth requirements of real plant species in a fitness function, but also includes a penalty term in that function that encourages facilitative interactions with other plants on the landscape. To evaluate the effectiveness of this approach, two search strategies--simulated annealing and agent-based search--were applied to models of different collections of simulated plant types and landscapes with different light distributions. These two search strategies produced landscape designs with different spatial distributions of the larger plants. All designs exhibited facilitation and lower water use than designs where facilitation was not included.