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The virtual mangrove tour has been developed by researchers in the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) and was filmed in the Jebel Ali Mangrove, near Dubai. It sits alongside existing free education resources which bring the effect of elevated CO2 on a UK oak forest directly into the classroom.

Users can visit the resources by clicking on links in the interactive 360 degree environment or using a VR (virtual reality) headset. They can find out how mangroves, found on tropical shorelines around the world, are different from the UK oak forest. In particular, how they have adapted to live in hot, salty environments where drought, storms, and poor soil conditions can all present significant challenges.

The tour also highlights how mangroves help us and our natural environment, providing a buffer from the effects of storms, improving water quality by filtering out harmful particles and protecting the environment – as well as capturing and storing CO2.

Professor Jeremy Pritchard, Director of Education for BIFoR, said: “Mangroves are at risk from increasing sea levels and coastal development, as well as agricultural and industrial activities. These environments form an important part of the Geography and Biology curriculum in the UK and we hope that these resources will offer teachers a new route into exploring them and the climate change threats that they face.”

Mangroves form an important part of the Geography and Biology curriculum in the UK and we hope that these resources will offer teachers a new route into exploring the them and the climate change threats that they face.

Professor Jeremy Pritchard, Director of Education, Birmingham Institute of Forest Research

The resource is based on the Institute’s successful Virtual BIFoR tour, which invites students to explore the Free-Air Carbon Enrichment experiment which the University has been running since 2017. This huge outdoor experiment is measuring how a traditional mature oak forest responds to increased CO2 levels, simulating the atmosphere we are predicted to have in 2050.

Dr Samantha Dobbie, BIFoR’s Education and Outreach Officer, said: “Both the BIFoR virtual tour and the mangrove tour help school students to really engage with different environments outside the classroom. By offering an immersive experience we’re also providing a different perspective on climate change issues which we hope will inspire the next generation of plant scientists – and climate-aware citizens.”