Just north of Tucson, Oro Valley and Saddlebrooke AZ, is a research center called Biosphere 2. This is a science center that is modeled after the first biosphere, or the Earth. The idea behind this is to create a mini eco system inside of a chamber that is blocked off from the outside world. The purpose was to model and research how humanity could exist on other planets, by creating an airlock system with the ability to grow their own crops and food for long term survival. The research facility is 3.14 acres of enclosed biomes. It rests on a 500 ton welded stainless steel liner, so the biomes do not come in contact with the Earth. The entire facility is on a 40 acre campus with 300k square feet of offices, classrooms and lab rooms.
Touring the Facility
There are daily tours of the Biosphere 2(north of Tucson) that begin at 11:15am and run through 3:45pm. You can even get your scuba certification done at the 700k gallon saltwater tank!
Ocean & Coral Reef
Inside the Biosphere 2 is an ocean biome with a living coral reef. They have a 700,000 gallon saltwater tank with living Floridian mangroves. This is the worlds largest controlled marine research facility along with a beach and hermit crabs. There are tons of plankton and fish that live here amongst the living coral reef. Scientists perform CO2 experiments to get a better understanding of hour our oceans work.
The rainforest biome at the Biosphere 2 consists of the following habitats: lowland rainforest, terraces, ginger belts, bamboo belt, varzea and tepui. Over 300+ species of plants were started here, and to date about 100 have become dominant. One of the tree species ended up having to be removed due to it’s fast growth. Having the rainforest biome allows researches to study rainforest droughts as well as other potential climate changes.
The Savanna biome is a hydrological transition zone between the rainforest and desert. The idea was to duplicate the processes in a tropical savanna. There are 4 major regions, Quartzite Slope, Upper Savanna, Granite Slope and Lower Savanna. Scientists use this region to study climate changes in the African Savanna regions as well as how droughts and vast rainfalls may affect plantlife.
This biome is designed to study the arid desert system with erratic rainfall and a large summer drought. Essentially this is a replication of the Tucson AZ region.
The Biosphere 2 is also a fantastic representation of how a modern model city would be. With every last utility planned out. There is a micro-energy grid with 3 Mega-watts of Solar panels, as well as multiple diesel and natural gas generators for backups. There is also an 80,000 gallon water storage tank. Scientists are looking to other renewable energy sources for the Biosphere 2, and green roofing solutions.
The entire project has an underground closed loop pipe system to handle the air flow and climate control for the facility. The Energy center handles this important function, as well as the dome shaped Lung buildings.