In 1991, a group of four men and four women researchers entered the sealed mini-world of Biosphere 2, an ecosystem complete with wilderness areas, a farm, a rain forest, a desert, wetlands, and even a coral reef in a 25-foot-deep, 150-foot-long ocean. They would live, work and study inside this bubble for two years.
Biosphere 2, was then ”the greatest experiment ever conducted in ecological self-organization, revolutionized the field of experimental ecology”. It has not been repeated on this scale, since.
Today, Biosphere 2 forms part of the University of Arizona and consists of seven model ecosystems, a team of multidisciplinary scientists, a broad science education and public outreach program, and a modern conference center. The seven model ecosystems are: 1) a mature rain forest with over 90 tropical tree species, 2) a 2600 m3 ocean, 3) forested swamps dominated by mangrove trees, 4) a tropical savanna grassland, 5) a 1400 m2 coastal fog desert, 6) three desert hillslope grass-shrubland landscapes, and 7) Biosphere 2, its campus, and associated buildings and facilities serve as a 162,000 m2 model city and urban ecosystem. Its mission is to serve as a centre for research, outreach, teaching and life-long learning about Biosphere 1 – our planet, its living systems, and its place in the universe.
You can find out more about this unique, fascinating-turned-controversial project on the Biosphere 2 website, an article on Space.com and a feature by a member of the original team on Dartmouth Alumni Magazine.
January 28th, 2019