Biosphere II

Biosphere II was a real-utopian community for about 3 years. It is located in Oracle, Arizona. It is named Biosphere II after out planet Earth, which is the first biosphere. The inventor/director or research is John Polk Allen, a ecologist and engineer. He is now the Chairman of Global Ecotechnics Corporation. After being owned by different companies, five biome areas were created in addition to an area for human habitat. Two missions that included about 8 people were conducted in 1991 and 1994 to test survivability and whether a small community could develop and live in a self-sustaining colony.

The first mission in 1991 was not so successful. By 1992 members had lost weight because of low food production and the oxygen levels were low. Chickens were not producing enough eggs and pigs were eating the biospherians’ food so the farm animals were eaten instead. Also there were rumors that they smuggled food from the outside. The second mission only lasted 6 months because of management disputes. Now it is a scientific research institute for the University of Arizona.

Some of the course themes include Ecology, Economics, and Science and Technology. Recycling is a key part of living in Biosphere II. Each person uses the same water and recycles all their waste. Using half an acre of land to grow food, they also keep the land fertile and only use non-polluting pest control methods. Each person is assigned different tasks to fulfill. These tasks include researching within different biomes, coordinating the technical system, planting and harvesting crops, and preparing meals. In Biosphere II, technology is used to control the systems such as waves, waterfalls, temperature, and humidity. The biospherians conduct research on how to restore endangered habitats by using their controlled environment. They try to find out how different elements affect the land.

Information from:
Images from Google

One thought on “Biosphere II

  1. The image of Biosphere II in your post itself peaked my curiosity in finding more information about this experiment. The glass structure, especially, looks like a giant greenhouse that would make any active gardener drool. This large facility represented 5 different biomes– a rainforest, an ocean with a coral reef, mangrove wetlands, a savannah grassland, and a fog desert. It’s actually incredible that these different ecosystems were recreated within this one facility– can you imagine just walking down a hallway, transitioning from a dense rainforest to a desert? However, it seems contradictory for an ecosystem to be created and maintained within a closed system. No large ecosystem on this planet can exist inside man-made walls and be expected to function normally over time. In fact, these researchers found that over the course of the year, oxygen levels became depleted to the point where they had to pump extra oxygen in.

    In 1995, Columbia University took over Biosphere II and actually stopped closed system research. By making it a “flow-through” system, they were able to manipulate CO2 levels as a part of global warming research. Now I can see some importance to this experiment– manipulating the environment within a closed facility allows important research to occur while keeping the outside environment out of harm’s way. These studies never lasted a long time, however, and I wonder if the researchers were ever able to draw concrete conclusions and gather new, significant information.

    This facility is now owned by the University of Arizona, whose website states its mission as “a center for research, outreach, teaching and life-long learning about Earth, it’s living systems, and its place in the universe”– which seems to echo Biosphere II’s mission when it was first created in the 1990s. I would like to visit this facility, although I would be more interested in visiting the different biomes and taking pictures (from a tourist’s perspective) rather than conducting research and recording data.

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