Using satellite imagery to map bankrupt bush in Free State Province

SANSA studentship programme candidate Morwapula Mashalane has embarked on a study to map the invasive Bankrupt bush (Seriphium plumosum) in Free State province as part of his Master of Science study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It is estimated that about 11 million hectares of land in the country is invaded by this undesirable plant that predominately occurs in the Free State, North West, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu-Natal provinces. Bankrupt bush is known to degrade rangeland productivity and ultimately reduces beef production as a result of the decline in grazing capacity. The shrub is also highly inflammable and aggravates the spread of uncontrolled veld fires.

SANSA remote sensing scientist Oupa Malahlela and Mashalane conducted field work (see  picture below) in Senekal in the Free State to examine various approaches of detecting and mapping the density of Bankrupt bush using satellite remote sensing technology.

Morwapula and Oupa are confident that the mapping of Bankrupt bush will assist farmers in targeting invaded sites that require the application of herbicides to eradicate the shrub and restore their rangelands to pristine condition.  Results of this study will be crucial in identifying and predicting the density of the Bankrupt bush for management and control purposes.

Vaneshree Maharaj