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Biosphere 2 is a local treasure known nationwide for its ambitious promise. It’s now open to the public, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon learning about ecology, climate change, and the measures the University of Arizona is taking to help preserve our environment.
The biosphere has been called a local resource, a failed project, a place to learn, and a showcase of the limitations of science. Everyone seems to have their own opinion on the enclosure, but few actually know what it is, how it’s being utilized, or the history behind it.
The biosphere began as what is known as a vivarium–an enclosed space built to study various climates in structures known as biomes. The idea was to gain an understanding of how to construct artificial environments to help us live in space. Scientists would live in these environments long-term, surviving off of the plants and animals they were able to cultivate themselves. They embarked on two missions, both of which had problems along the way, but they were able to live for nearly four years off of what they built without outside interference. The experiments were anything but a failure. If need be, they could be reproduced successfully without any problems the previous missions encountered, and we learned quite a bit about them.
Biosphere 2 is a place to study the environment. Visitors can see how scientists are using each biome to try and understand how the systems within them function and interact. You can visit the savannah, the rainforest, mangroves, coral reefs, and fog deserts–all functioning reproductions of their real equivalents. The trip includes a self-guided tour, an overview of the history, and the features of each biome.