The Biosphere

We recently went to visit Biosphere 2, a tiny re-creation of Earth, or Biosphere 1. We got to see several biomes, including a rain forest, ocean, mangrove forest, and a fog desert. For those who didn’t know, fog deserts are normal deserts but the humidity in the air (the fog) supplies most of the water supply for the plants.

Basically, Biosphere 2 was a project where 8 people lived in an entirely sealed ecosystem that provided its own oxygen, water and food for two years. It is mostly enclosed by glass and has a steel layer underneath. The humans and livestock in Biosphere 2 would create the carbon dioxide for the plants to absorb and the plants would turn that carbon dioxide into oxygen and continue the cycle. The animals and plants would provide food for each other and as they grew the cycle would continue

The biomes were in separate rooms and in a greenhouse. They were under glass, like I said earlier. There was a small room in which coffee trees and banana trees grew. It took about two weeks of work to make one cup of coffee and they pretty much lived off of bananas. The next room was the ocean and the rain forest. The ocean is 1 million gallons and holds a reef covered in algae, fish, crabs, and other life. They use the ocean now as a way to experiment with the real ocean on a much smaller scale. The rain forest was going through a drought experiment when we visited. I know you are thinking that a drought in the rain forest isn’t really accurate and you are right, but most of the plants in the rain forest have adapted to getting almost constant rain, so a decrease in rain can still cause damage. We then left the rain forest room and went back through the ocean and mangrove forest and went to the fog desert. Like I said earlier, a fog desert is a normal desert with much more humidity. This fog desert was mostly sand and gravel with several types of cacti and trees, and had a couple cave-like structures to keep air moving. After the fog desert, we went into the Technosphere, the name for the mechanical guts of Biosphere 2. Inside the Technosphere we could see the air handlers, the machines that pushed air out of the caves, the many water tanks and how they worked. The engineers that built Biosphere 2 thought of everything. They had special machines just to catch condensation from the water tanks.

The first project in Biosphere 2 was a completely enclosed living experiment where 8 people would live in Biosphere 2 without physical contact to the outside (they had a single phone to call electricians when something went wrong). They had to grow their own food, recycle water and take care of the Technosphere so that the oxygen and water did not decrease over the time they spent there. No one could come into Biosphere 2 during the two closed years so the people inside had to figure out how to fix it themselves. There is a TedX about one of the women that was in the Biosphere 2 project and she can probably explain what it was like better than I can. Here is a link to the TedX

The lungs were another machine that was a very good idea. The whole point of the lungs were to let air have a place to go when it expanded. When air molecules get warmer, they spread out, causing the lungs to inflate. When it is cooler, the air molecules get closer together and the lungs deflate. Two were built, but they ended up only using one.

They are doing many more projects there and I would love to go back in the future to see what more they discover. They are working with the University of Arizona to do more studies to predict how the earth will react in specific circumstances. That’s all I have for this post so I guess it’s time for the #randomfactofthepost

From the continental view, Japan is the farthest east, looking like the source of the sun. That is why Japan is sometimes called the “land of the rising sun.”


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