APPLICATION AND APPRAISAL OF A MULTI-OBJECTIVE DECISION SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR THE EVALUATION OF FARM FORESTRY VIABILITY

David Ian Jeffreys (2009). APPLICATION AND APPRAISAL OF A MULTI-OBJECTIVE DECISION SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR THE EVALUATION OF FARM FORESTRY VIABILITY PhD Thesis, School of Integrative Systems, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author David Ian Jeffreys
Thesis Title APPLICATION AND APPRAISAL OF A MULTI-OBJECTIVE DECISION SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR THE EVALUATION OF FARM FORESTRY VIABILITY
School, Centre or Institute School of Integrative Systems
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2009-04
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr John Herbohn
A/Prof Steve Harrison
Prof Ockie Bosch
Total pages 442
Total colour pages 56
Total black and white pages 386
Subjects 07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences
Abstract/Summary Abstract This thesis presents innovative applications of Multi-Objective Decision Support Systems (MODSS) to forestry decision support. New MODSS methodologies were developed to assess and evaluate forestry practices and finance regimes. The assessment of forestry investments draw on case studies conducted in the Hodgson Creek catchment on the Darling Downs in south Queensland and on the Atherton Tablelands in north Queensland, Australia. MODSS are systems that aid decision-making, in which a set of alternative management options are evaluated against a set of decision criteria. The criteria, that represent the stakeholders’ goals and objectives, are weighted to reflect stakeholder preferences regarding their relative importance. The weighted criteria scores are then aggregated to create an overall measure of option performance. In the first case study, MODSS procedures identified from the literature as being most suitable to forestry and the MODSS software package DEFINITE was used. After a critical review of the first study, a new MODSS was developed to address the particular needs of forestry evaluations and the weaknesses of current MODSS for addressing these needs. Limitations of the Hodgson Creek MODSS included lack of stakeholder engagement in the MODSS development process, inefficient use of the stakeholder time and an excessive work load on the experts in the scoring process. The new MODSS development process included the combined use of weighted sum and Electré aggregation methods, these being compensatory and non-compensatory aggregation methods. This combination of aggregation methods provided a measure of overall option performance and identified the presence of fatal flaws in the options. Various criteria weighting methods were trialled – including rank order methods, the analytical hierarchy process and direct assessments – to assess their utility for defining weights that reflected stakeholder priorities. A new hybrid weighting technique was developed using a combination of rank order methods and direct assessments. A new and innovative process for scoring options and criteria was developed, using an adaption of the Nominal Group Technique (NGT) in conjunction with a new computer-based Group Decision Support System (GDSS). This iterative process involved repeated rounds of individual scoring and group discussions. In the workshop conducted to elicit scores from experts, the GDSS was used to identify criteria where the elicited scores differed and discussions were focused on these criteria. After the discussions the options were rescored against the criteria and discussed further. This analysis was innovative in that uncertainty around the individual option scores was addressed for the first time using MODSS. This new application was developed in a spreadsheet using the risk analysis package @RISK. Evaluations of forestry options were undertaken at various time scales to address the long delay between incurring costs of tree planting and receiving returns from harvest. The various time scales identify the periods in which environmental and social benefits occurred as the trees grow and the economic benefits occurred at clearfell (or selective) harvest. This thesis specifically focuses on situations where measured and modelled data is not available, and seeks to increase the scientific rigour of the use of expert and stakeholder opinion in MODSS. The MODSS analyses revealed that forestry in the case study areas had the potential to offer considerable economic, environmental and social benefits to both landholders and the wider community. However, these benefits (and the associated costs) were not viewed as equally important. The MODSS developed in this study addressed these concerns. The benefits and costs of an option were reflected in its performance against the criteria. The degree of importance of the individual criteria varied from minor to high and overriding all other considerations. Criteria against which an option performed highly (the option’s strengths) were identified, as were criteria against which an option performed poorly (the option’s weaknesses). When these weaknesses occurred in highly important criteria, these were identified as fatal flaws in the option. The first case study in the Hodgson Creek catchment considered eight forestry options against 17 economic criteria, 12 environmental criteria and 12 social criteria. The second case study on the Atherton Tablelands considered 16 forestry options against eight economic criteria, six environmental criteria and five social criteria. The MODSS analysis identified the most preferred forestry options and the strengths and weaknesses of the options. In both case studies the most preferred options were large or medium-sized plantations with monoculture plantings with an element of non-landholder funding, in the form of government funding, joint ventures or land leasing agreements. These options had the highest performance against the economic criteria at all time scales and satisfactory environmental and social performance. Other forestry options that performed well included plantings focused on under-utilised land areas and salinity prevention areas, agroforestry, and selective harvesting of private native forest. These options generally had a higher level of performance against the social and environmental criteria, but lower levels of performance against economic criteria. These plantings would be undertaken for environmental and social reasons and not for financial returns. The application of MODSS developed in this thesis presents a significant scientific contribution to MODSS methodology. This thesis includes: the use of multiple time-periods to address the temporal differences in the delivery of benefits and costs, the use of NGT and a GDSS to provide a process for rapidly eliciting expert opinion, and the use of the combination of Electré and weighted sum aggregation methods to provide an overall measure of option performance and to identify fatal flaws in the options.
Keyword MODSS
forestry
stakeholder engagement
social
economic
environment
risk analysis
weighting techniques
aggregation techniques
decision support
Additional Notes The following pages are to be printed in colour: 123-124, 178-183, 191-192, 196-197, 199-200, 235-248, 303-304. 306-307, 309-310, 357-358, 361-362, 398-403, 405-416. The following pages are to be printed landscape: 82-93, 231-233, 350-353, 364-366. A CDROM envelope is required to be attached to the inside of the rear cover.

 
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Created: Thu, 03 Dec 2009, 20:24:37 EST by Mr David Jeffreys on behalf of Library - Information Access Service