The Cape Peninsula National Park (CPNP) is sited at the southwestern tip of Africa, encompassing a 60 km mountain chain bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and False Bay on the east. The area is globally recognised for its rich floral and faunal diversity, as well as its remarkable scenic, historic, cultural and recreational attractions. In addition, the area is a major local and international tourist destination. In response to these threats, the CPNP was established as a National Park (IUCN Category 1) in 1998 under the management of South African National Parks.
In 1999 a project to develop a GIS-based environmental information system (EIS) was initiated. A related project aimed at developing a management system consisting of publicly acceptable management policies, and strategic and operational planning guidelines within a strategic management plan was initiated at the same time. The EIS was aimed at providing park management staff with access to information and information management tools facilitating the planning, implementation and monitoring of park activities.
What did the EIS have to do?
An exhaustive requirements assessment process was undertaken to ensure that the final system catered for the users needs. Essentially, the EIS had to provide a user-friendly interface to data describing the key management concerns for park staff. These primary concerns are land acquisition; alien vegetation status; fire regimes; biodiversity distribution; and cultural and heritage features.
The final solution
The development of the EIS took a number of interesting turns before finally settling on an ArcIMS based solution, which accesses a centrally located ArcSDE/SQL database. Separate database and application servers form the heart of the system, with the users accessing the EIS through the organisational intranet via an introductory HTML screen. This provides links to a series of ArcIMS map services (termed themes) with each focusing on a particular management concern.
Layers are grouped again within each theme, providing drop-down lists within the layer list window. Within each data grouping, the primary attributes for rendering were chosen, which provides users with a rapid means of visualising relevant data. A critical concern for users was the speed of response, so a thin-client solution using an HTML viewer and image server was chosen, rather than a Java Viewer or Feature Streaming Server.
The EIS is accompanied by a detailed data management plan, which provides data quality requirements and guidelines, as well as the procedures needed to maintain the system.
The future of the EIS
It is critical that the data available to users is maintained and updated regularly. A formal set of procedures has been developed to capture dynamic data and update the SDE/SQL database. These procedures rely heavily on SQL scripts that assess the integrity and quality of the data, before integrating new data sets into the database.
The scaleable and customisable strength of the EIS will be used to develop additional tools for providing users with specific information tools. For example, a set of standard reports is envisaged, which, for example, would provide regular information on the progress and success of alien clearing operations using standard report formats.