Using GIS as a means of modelling work rates and as a decision support tool in alien plant control management : the case study of the eMpofana river, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
The problems posed by alien invasive plants to our environment and the need for clearing and control has been highlighted by the Working for Water (WFW) programme. Alien plant control requires careful planning, including budgeting. To date, costing and budgeting in alien plant control has largely been a combination of experience on the part of weed 'experts', coupled with much guess work. Weed controllers have through experience calculated the amount of time (or the work rate), recorded as labour days, required for different control actions of different weed habits. These work rates are for weed clearance under ideal conditions and do not take into account the effect of factors such as gradient, access and distance to the weed infestation. Factors affecting the work rate has been researched and modelled by researchers in both alien plant control and the timber industry. While the existing work rate model is useful in its present theoretical state, the model may be improved upon to make it more practical and applicable to the varying conditions of different areas. This research built on existing theoretical research on alien control work rates, and concentrated on two main areas: the adaption and incorporation of the existing research on work rates into a Geographical Information System (GIS), and the creation and demonstration of a Spatial Decision Support System (SDSS) for the management of alien plant control. The eMpofana river in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands was selected as the study area, as there was an existing alien plant control programme. Initially all factors, such as slope, access to weed infestations, terrain and penetrability of infestations, affecting the work rate in the research area were identified. An existing work rate model was then modified to account for the conditions of the research area. Regression analysis was used to derive the relationship between the various factors affecting work rate, creating a work rate model applicable to the study area. Using the results of the regression analysis together with work rate figures adapted from an existing alien plant control programme, a SDSS for alien plant control along the eMpofana River was created. The use of the work rate model and the SDSS in the development of weed control programmes was demonstrated by examining four different management approaches, each having a different management objective . The SDSS provides a spatial component to weed control planning and costing that has thus far not existed. What this research has achieved is the advancement of an alien control work rate model from a theoretical to a more realistic costing process. While some factors affecting work rate may not have been accounted for, the model does address the present inaccuracies in labour costing, and ultimately alien plant control costing. The research has highlighted the disadvantages of GIS in terms of affordability and expertise. The model has wider uses than the eMpofana River, and is the ground work for the further development of a user friendly model applicable throughout South Africa. More effective project budgeting will decrease the likelihood of project failure and this will directly benefit long-term weed control efforts.
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