The Biosphere 2 project, a 1.2 hectare materially-closed mini-biosphere that supported teams of biospherian crews from 1991-1994 provides a host of ecological and human-biosphere lessons relevant to our global biospheric challenges. Because of its high visibility through worldwide media coverage, the project advanced public understanding of what a biosphere is and the roles that humans can constructively play in keeping ecosystems and atmosphere healthy. The present paper reviews the fairly recent scientific understanding of our global biosphere and some of the intriguing results from Biosphere 2. It also examines some of the reasons that Biosphere 2 aroused controversy because of narrow definitions and expectations of how science is to be conducted. The cooperation between engineers and ecologists and the requirement to design a technosphere for Biosphere 2 that supported the life inside without harming it has enormous relevance to what is required in our global home. There was an unexpected and profound connection that the ‘biospherian’ crew inside Biosphere 2 felt to their living biosphere. Biosphere 2 also demonstrated new kinds of roles that can be played by people aware of a biosphere as their life support system.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.
Alling A. & Nelson M. (1993) Life Under Glass: The Inside Story of Biosphere 2. Tucson AZ: Biosphere Press. Published also in Dutch (1993) and Japanese (Kdansha Press 1997).
Alling A. Nelson M. Leigh L. MacCallum T. et al. (1993) Experiments on the closed ecological system in the Biosphere 2 Test Module. Appendix chapter pp 463-469 in R.J. Beyers and H.T. Odum eds. Ecological Microcosms. NY: Springer-Verlag.
Bolin B. and Cooke R.B. (eds.) (1983) The major biogeochemical cycles and their interactions in SCOPE 21. NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Allen J. (1991) Biosphere 2: The Human Experiment. NY: Penguin Books.
Allen J.P. Nelson M. and Snyder T.P. (1984) Institute of Ecotechnics. The Environmentalist 4 205-218.
Commoner B. (1990) Making Peace with the Planet. NY: Pantheon Books.
Davies J. (2016) The Birth of the Anthropocene. Berkeley CA: University of California Press.
Dempster W.F. (2008) Tightly closed ecological systems reveal atmospheric subtleties - experience from Biosphere 2. Advances in Space Research 42 1951-1956.
Dempster W.F. (1994) Water Systems of Biosphere 2 presented at the International Conference on Life Support and Biospherics at the University of Alabama Huntsville 1992. Published Oracle AZ: Space Biospheres Ventures.
Dempster W.F. (1993) Biosphere 2: System Dynamics and Observations During the Initial Two-Year Closure Trial. Society of Automotive Engineers Technical Paper No. 932290 Society of Automotive Engineers 23rd International Conference on Environmental Systems Colorado Springs CO.
Finn M. (1996) Comparison of mangrove forest structure and function in a mesocosm and Florida. PhD Dissertation Georgetown University Washington D.C..
Langdon C. Takahashi T. Sweeney C. et al. (2000) Effect of calcium carbonate saturation state on the calcification rate of an experimental coral reef. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 14(2) 639-654.
Langdon C. Broecker W.S. Hammond D.E. et al. (2003) Effect of elevated CO2 on the community metabolism of an experimental coral reef. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 17(1) 1011 doi: 1010.1029/2002GB001941.
Leigh L. (1999) The Basis for Rainforest Diversity in Biosphere 2. Ph.D. Dissertation University of Florida Gainesville FL:.
Lovelock J. (1979) Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.
Marino B. D. & Odum H. T. (1999) Biosphere 2. Introduction and research progress. Ecological Engineering 13(1-4) 3-14.
Morowitz H. Allen J.P. Nelson M. et al. (2005) Closure as a Scientific Concept and its Application to Ecosystem Ecology and the Science of the Biosphere. Advances in Space Research 36(7) 1305-1311.
Nelson M. (2018) Pushing our Limits: Insights from Biosphere 2. Tucson AZ: University of Arizona Press.
Nelson M. Gray K. & Allen J.P. (2015) Group dynamics challenges: Insights from Biosphere 2. Life Sciences in Space Research 6 79-86. http:dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lssr.2015.07.003
Nelson M. Dempster W.F. & Allen J.P. (2013) Key Ecological Challenges for Closed Systems Facilities. Advances in Space Research 52(1) 86-96. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.asr.2013.03.019
Nelson M. Dempster W.F. & Allen J.P. (2009) The Water Cycle in Closed Ecological Systems: Perspectives from the Biosphere 2 and Laboratory Biosphere Systems. Advances in Space Research 44(12) 1404-1412.
Nelson M. Allen J.P. Alling A. Dempster W.F. & Silverstone S. (2003) Earth applications of closed ecological systems: relevance to the development of sustainability in our global biosphere. Advances in Space Research 31(7) 1649-1656.
Nelson M & Dempster W.F. (1996) Living In Space: results from Biosphere 2’s initial closure an early testbed for closed ecological systems on Mars pp. 363-390 in Strategies for Mars: a guide to human exploration ed. Stoker C. & Emment C.. San Diego CA: AAS Publication Vol. 86.
Nelson M Dempster W.F. Alvarez-Romo N. et al. (1994) Atmospheric Dynamics and bioregenerative technologies in a soil-based ecological life support system: Initial results from Biosphere 2. Advances in Space Research 14 (11) 417-426.
Nelson M. Burgess T. Alling A. Alvarez-Romo N. et al (1993a) Using a closed ecological system to study Earth’s biosphere: Initial results from Biosphere 2. BioScience 43(4) 225-236.
Nelson M. Silverstone S. & Poynter J. (1993b) Biosphere 2 Agriculture: Testbed for intensive sustainable non-polluting farming systems. Outlook on Agriculture 13(3) 167-174.
Nelson M. & Bohn H. (2011) Soil-based biofiltration for air purification: potentials for environmental and space life support application. Journal of Environmental Protection doi 10.4236/jep.2011 published online.
Nelson M. & Wolverton B.C. (2011) Plants + Soil/Wetland Microbes and Food Crop Systems that also Clean Air and Water. Advances in Space Research 47 582-90. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.asr.2010.10.007
Reider R. (2009) Dreaming the Biosphere: The Theatre of All Possibilities. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
Schlesinger W.H. (1991) Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change. NY: Academic Press.
Schwägerl C. (2014) The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How It Shapes Our Planet. Santa Fe NM: Synergetic Press.
Severinghaus J.P. Broecker W.S. Dempster W.F. et al. (1994) Oxygen loss in Biosphere 2. Eos Transactions American Geophysical Union 75 33-37.
Silverstone S.E. & Nelson M. (1996) Food production and nutrition in Biosphere 2: results from the first mission September 1991 to September 1993. Advances in Space Research 18 (4/4) 49-61.
Tubiello F.N. Druitt J.W. & Marino B.D.V. (1999) Dynamics of the Global Water Cycle of Biosphere 2. Ecological Engineering 13 287-300.
Trubetskova I. (2004) Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky and his Revolutionary Theory of the Biosphere and the Noosphere http://www-sg.sr.unh.edu/preceptorial/Summaries_2004/Vernadsky_Pap_ITru.html (accessed 5 July 2018)