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Virtual Reality Forests Could Allow People to Better Understand Climate Change

The effects of climate change are quite hard to grasp at times. However, now, geographers have developed a VR forest that allows people to explore a web – based forest and witness what may happen to the trees in the future. Alexander Klippel, a geography professor, explained that climate change is theoretical. One can only witness its effects in 20 or more years. Thus, it is difficult for people to comprehend, plan, and make decisions.

The researchers blended information on forest ecology and forest composition to build a forest similar to those present in Wisconsin. Klippel said that they are part of the CNH program grant, which is NSF-funded, and are operating with Wisconsin’s Menominee Indian Tribe. Inspired by their deeper connection to the environment Klippel’s team believes that experiencing the future is critical for all environmental decision-making.

The first step

The VR experience considers sophisticated vegetation models, extensive climate change models, and ecological models and builds a 2050 forest that users can experience by walking through it, exploring the variety of trees, and witnessing the changes. The first step involved creating a modern-day forest.

Through Wisconsin forest data, the researchers could have implemented strict rules and placed trees in the forest. But, they decided on a procedural technique to populate it through some ecological rules, thus, giving it a natural and more organic feel. Jiawei Huang, a graduate student in geography, said that the trees’ small details are also randomized so that they do not appear the same.

Analytical Modeling

The researchers have said that the procedural rules have let them reproducibly and efficiently translate the parameters into a stimulated forest. They utilized analytical modeling to transform the data for procedural modeling. To capture the forest’s ecology, they used LANDIS II, a remarkable and well-established model.

Virtual Reality Forests Could Allow People to Better Understand Climate Change

Accurate predictions

Klippel then mentioned their ecologist colleagues – Robert M. Scheller, a geography professor at North Carolina State University, and Melissa S. Lucash, a research assistant professor of geography at the University of Oregon. They ensure the requisite expertise to make accurate predictions. The researchers note that the powerful model can deal with events like fire, windstorms, flooding, and climate change.

Digital walkthrough

A digital walk through this Wisconsin forest displays tall trees as well as an understory. Strollers, with the help of virtual reality headsets and controllers, can explain the kind of trees present, switch the elevation to birds-eye view, and also evaluate the forest composition.

Two future scenarios

The researchers decided on two future scenarios, a hot and dry scenario, and a base scenario. With the help of virtual reality, the forest visitors can witness the changes in tree types and do a lot of other things. It includes comparing the base scenario and the hot and dry scenario.

View changes

The researchers have explained that their approach to developing visceral forests experiences under climate transformation can lead to communication among policymakers, experts, and the public. They want to build a medium to communicate things in the past or the future for visceral or more holistic access. It will let non-experts view the changes that have resulted from climate change.

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