Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this flipped classroom lesson, students will research secondary sources to describe measurable causes and effects of changes to the health of mangroves. This research is designed to inspire questions, predictions and hypotheses. Students will brainstorm the events that might cause variations to abiotic factors that influence the health and distribution of mangroves. These considerations may include: climate change, and the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events; alterations to mangrove habitats for other purposes; and the runoff carrying sediments and chemicals. Finally, students will consider a range of questions that could be investigated scientifically that MangroveWatch researchers should be asking.

This lesson is designed for a flipped classroom, where students learn new content in their own time. This strategy provides the opportunity for students to build their knowledge, attitudes and values by themselves, thereby freeing up class time for hands-on work. This lesson can be used to develop prior knowledge in preparation for the other lessons in this unit.

This lesson is part of a six-lesson unit of work. This unit can be used in sequence to prepare your students to participate in an investigation of mangroves in your local area as part of the MangroveWatch citizen science program.

The lessons in this unit have been developed in partnership with Earthwatch and  MangroveWatch. Earthwatch is a global not-for-profit organisation that uses citizen science to empower people to save the natural world, and works with all sectors to create a society that lives in balance with nature. MangroveWatch is a not-for-profit organisation that focuses on the research, education and conservation of mangrove and tidal wetland environments globally.

Learning intention:

  • Students will recognise measurable causes and effects of changes to the health of mangroves.

21st century skills:

CommunicatingCommunity EngagementCreative ThinkingCritical ThinkingProblem Finding

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 9 Science

  • Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems (ACSSU176)
  • Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically (ACSIS164)

Year 10 Science

  • The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the diversity of living things and is supported by a range of scientific evidence (ACSSU185)
  • Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically (ACSIS198)

Year 11 and 12 Science – Biology

  • Identify, research and construct questions for investigation; propose hypotheses; and predict possible outcomes (ACSBL001)
  • Ecosystems are diverse, composed of varied habitats and can be described in terms of their component species, species interactions and the abiotic factors that make up the environment (ACSBL019)
  • In addition to biotic factors, abiotic factors including climate and substrate can be used to describe and classify environments (ACSBL021)
  • Human activities (for example, over-exploitation, habitat destruction, monocultures, pollution) can reduce biodiversity and can impact on the magnitude, duration and speed of ecosystem change (ACSBL028)
  • Models of ecosystem interactions (for example, food webs, successional models) can be used to predict the impact of change and are based on interpretation of and extrapolation from sample data (for example, data derived from ecosystem surveying techniques); the reliability of the model is determined by the representativeness of the sampling (ACSBL029)

Syllabus outcomes: SC5-14LW.

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Literacy, Personal and Social Capability.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.7, OI.9.

Relevant parts of Year 9 Science achievement standards: Students design questions that can be investigated using a range of inquiry skills. They analyse how biological systems function and respond to external changes with reference to interdependencies, energy transfers and flows of matter.

Relevant parts of Year 10 Science achievement standards: Students describe and analyse interactions and cycles within and between Earth’s spheres. They develop questions and hypotheses.

Year 11 and 12 students:

  • understand that ecosystem diversity and dynamics can be described and compared with reference to biotic and abiotic components and their interactions.
  • understand how theories and models have developed based on evidence from multiple disciplines; and the uses and limitations of biological knowledge in a range of contexts.

Topic: Biodiversity, Climate Change.

Unit of work: MangroveWatch – Years 9 to 12.

Time required: 120 minutes.

Level of teacher scaffolding: This lesson should be completed in students’ own time. 

Resources required: 

  • Student Worksheets – one copy per student.
  • Device/s capable of enabling students to work independently.
  • Devices capable of presenting to the class: YouTube, enlarged ecosystem flow chart and photographs.

Keywords: Ecological communities, conceptual model, climate change, natural selection, citizen science, MangroveWatch, causes and effects, adaptations, natural selection.

Cool Australia, MangroveWatch and Earthwatch would like to acknowledge the generous contributions of The Protecting Wetlands for the Future Project in the development of these teaching resources. The Protecting Wetlands for the Future Project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Worksheet

Learning intentions: Students will…

  • … recognise measurable causes and effects of changes to the health of mangroves.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … analyse video reports of threats and pressures upon mangroves
  • … describe adaptations of mangroves and the implications for adaptation through natural selection as a consequence of climate change
  • … interpret a conceptual model of a mangrove ecosystem to plan a question for investigation
  • … explain benefits of MangroveWatch for the environment and community
  • … develop questions to guide scientific research.

Teacher content information: MangroveWatch is a citizen science program hosted by Earthwatch Australia and James Cook University. The MangroveWatch citizen science program provides tools, methods and training to assist students and the wider community help scientists gather data on the extent and health of Australia’s mangroves and salt marshes, known collectively as tidal wetlands.

Through citi

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: What changes affect communities of mangrove and salt marsh?

This worksheet has been broken down into four parts that you can work through at your own pace. Each section has an introductory inquiry question in its title to tune you into the content.

Part A. What changes affect mangrove and salt marsh ecosystems?

In this section you will:

  • discuss environmental changes that may cause variations in species
  • watch two video reports that describe the causes and effects of change within ecosystems 
  • predict the capacity of species to adapt to climate change

Background Information: MangroveWatch focuses on collecting baseline data on mangrove ecosystems to determine change. This data is analysed to help MangroveWatch researchers understand and make predictions about the effect of storms, drought, climate change, floods, fire, land clearing and introduced species on these ecosystems. These change processes may create selective pressures causing variations in traits

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