Climatic Change

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 317–340 | Cite as

Ecosystem Modeling Adds Value to a South African Climate Forecast

  • Randall B. Boone
  • Kathleen A. Galvin
  • Michael B. Coughenour
  • Jerry W. Hudson
  • Peter J. Weisberg
  • Coleen H. Vogel
  • James E. Ellis


Livestock production in South Africa is limited by frequent droughts. The South African Weather Service produces climate forecasts estimating the probability of low rainfall three and six months into the future. We used the ecosystem model SAVANNA applied to five commercial farms in the Vryburg region of the North-West Province, and five communal areas within the Province, to assess the utility of a climate forecast in refining drought coping strategies. Rainfall data from 1970 to 1994 were modified to represent a drought (225 mm of rainfall) in 1977/1978, and used in simulations. In a simulation on an example commercial farm we assumed a forecast was available in 1977 portending an upcoming drought, and that the owner sold 490 cattle and 70 sheep prior to the drought. Over the simulation period, the owner sold 31% more cattle when the forecast was used,versus when the forecast was ignored. Populations of livestock on both commercial and communal farms recovered more quickly following the drought when owners sold animals in response to the forecast. The economic benefit from sales is being explored using optimization techniques. Results and responses from South African livestock producers suggest that a real-time farm model linked with climate forecasting would be a valuable management tool.


Coping Strategy Livestock Producer Simulation Period Ecosystem Model Commercial Farm 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Randall B. Boone
    • 1
  • Kathleen A. Galvin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael B. Coughenour
    • 1
  • Jerry W. Hudson
    • 2
  • Peter J. Weisberg
    • 3
  • Coleen H. Vogel
    • 4
  • James E. Ellis
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural Resource Ecology LaboratoryColorado State UniversityFort CollinsU.S.A.
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsU.S.A
  3. 3.Department of Forest SciencesSwiss Federal Institute of TechnologyZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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