Modeling Algoa Bay – A systems dynamics approach to understanding the interactions between user groups deriving value from Algoa Bay

The Algoa Bay Systems Dynamics Modelling Project forms part of a broader Algoa Project run by the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. The Algoa Project is focused on multidisciplinary research linked to ocean conservation and sustainable use, while Asset Research’s project focusses specifically on modelling the transfer of value between various user groups and eco-systems.  The broader Algoa Bay project can be found at www.algoabayproject.com and www.algoabaydata.com.

Algoa Bay

Algoa Bay is home to an extensive range of marine fauna and flora, boasting both the largest Cape Gannet Population and the largest population of breeding African Penguins. The bay contains two island clusters, two estuary outlets, two ports and hosts extensive industrial operation.  Consequently, it is a complex mass of interconnected and dynamic systems, both natural and artificial. A systems dynamics approach to understanding these interconnections aims to model the flow of value between each user and ecosystem present in the bay to allow for smarter usage of the bay, ideally maximizing social welfare within bounds the environment can sustain.

System dynamics is an approach to understanding the non-linear behavior of complex systems over time. Utilizing Vensim Software, it is possible to frame, understand, and discuss the complex interactions between the various user groups in Algoa Bay. The user groups identified within the study have been classified into three clusters, namely: commercial and industrial, residential, and recreational. As each group derives value from numerous and overlapping ecosystems services provided by the bay, each of their behavior impacts the others. For instance, the waste exuded by the industrial zone near the West side of the bay causes a decline in water quality, which in turn puts stress on marine wildlife and ultimately detracts from the value derived by local and tourist recreators as well as the commercial fishing industry. The system dynamics project is being conducted by a team of two budding economists, Matthew Bentley and Pablo Rees led by Professor James Blignaut of Asset Research and Stellenbosch University. Matthew and Pablo are both Stellenbosch University graduates, having completed their Economics Honours degrees in 2020. Matthews honours degree entailed a focus on environmental economics and artificial intelligence, and he is currently looking into furthering his studies within the field of Environmental Management. Pablo focused on environmental economics and the South African power mix in his Honours year and is now also completing his MCom Economics dissertation in Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and Stock Market Prediction through Stellenbosch University. Matthew and Pablo have a common love for the environment and its preservation and are therefore motivated to complete this project in a way that yields useful and accurate results.

Matthew Bentley
Pablo Rees