How2QnD: Design and Construction of a Game-Style, Environmental Simulation Engine and Interface Using UML, XML, and Java
Within wicked environmental challenges, problems that exist in the nexus of environmental science and environmental values, neatly and elegantly optimized solutions are difficult to find and rarely accepted by stakeholders. Different role players must explore the challenge adaptively and through viewpoints to contribute to their understanding of the situation and to learn about the dynamics and values of other relevant stakeholders. The Questions and Decisions (QnD) system (Kiker, G.A., et al., Springer Science, 2006, 11, 151–186) was created to provide an effective and efficient tool to integrate ecosystem, management, economics, and sociopolitical factors into a user-friendly game/model framework. QnD is written in object-oriented Java and can be deployed in stand-alone or Web-based (browser-accessed) modes. The QnD model links spatial components within geographic information system (GIS) files to the abiotic (climatic) and biotic interactions that exist in an environmental system. QnD can be used in a rigorous modeling role to mimic system elements obtained from scientific data or it can be used to create a “cartoon” style depiction of the system to promote greater learning and discussion from decision participants. Elephant and vegetation dynamics in Africa provide an excellent example of a wicked environmental challenge as conservation objectives and societal values (both local and international) often have conflicting goals concerning appropriate elephant densities and population control options in protected areas. In attempting to capture many dynamic aspects of elephant–vegetation relationships, previous models depicting the savanna ecosystem of the Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa, can become quite complex and demanding in terms of detailed parameter inputs. Therefore, the purpose of this modeling project was to create a simplified, management-focused, visual simulation of the KNP in order to chart future elephant, tree, and grass scenarios. QnD:EleSim has been designed to spatially simulate elephant–vegetation dynamics in 195 areas at 10-km resolution at a monthly time-step. As the effects of elephant populations on the tree–grass equilibrium of the savanna are documented, future management decisions can be advised after analysis of potential scenarios.
KeywordsGeographic Information System Unify Modeling Language Elephant Grass Grass Biomass Kruger National Park
Special thanks to the following people/organizations that allowed for the development of this model to be made possible: Dr. Judith Kruger, Dr. Rina Grant, and Dr Harry Biggs of the South Africa National Parks for supplying climate, soils, vegetation, animal census, fire, and other KNP data sets. In addition, their guidance and friendship are truly appreciated. The KNP Elephant Modeling Group (chaired by Prof. Robert Slotow and Dr. Robert Scholes) for coordination of elephant modeling research activities. The South African Weather Bureau for provision of climate data. Prof. David Saah of the University of San Francisco for his input and comments. Finally, the University of Florida Center for Precollegiate Education and Training for organizing and supporting this research opportunity for Mr. Thummalapalli.
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