Process and modelling studies in forest hydrology.
The demand for timber products in South Africa, and consequently afforestation, is increasing. There exists, however, abundant experimental evidence that trees utilise more soil water than other dryland crops. Because water is limited in South Africa, decision makers therefore currently face the challenge of determining a socially, and economically acceptable afforestation management plan to enable the reconciliation of increased timber demand with scarce water supply. This challenge, and the subsequent decisions that need to be made, may be accomplished by making use of suitable simulation models to predict the impacts of the forest hydrological system on water resources. Currently, these impacts are assessed through an Afforestation Permit System (APS) which is based on a model now acknowledged to have become outdated. In this dissertation an enhanced ACRU Forest Decision Support System (FDSS), now called the ACRU Forest model, is developed and proposed as a tool for modelling forest hydrological impacts on water resources. Research for this study included a literature survey, fieldwork at two locations, viz. at forest irrigation trials at Mkuze in northern KwaZulu-Natal, and at forest site preparation trials near Ugie in the Eastern Cape, as well as the evaluation, for purposes of model development, of a series of workshops. Results from the fieldwork experiments show that large tree water use potentials are possible if water is not limiting, although a water supply threshold exists at about 1400mm.annum-1, above which diminishing growth returns occur. Furthermore, trees display improved growth on more intensive forest site preparations, but at the expense of higher water usage rates. A series of workshops which had as the main objective the extraction of expert knowledge by stimulating responses to prepared questions and by constructive discussion on relative issues pertaining to forest hydrological modelling, yielded valuable information. This information, together with that gleaned from the literature, the fieldwork and a new Quaternary catchment database for South Africa, was used to develop the ACRU Forest model. The PC-based ACRU Forest model has the potential to aid decision makers by providing an initial indication of the impacts of afforestation on water resources, within a matter of minutes. An example of the model's application is used to demonstrate its operation, relative accuracy and its potential benefits in simulating hydrological responses to afforestation.