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Biosphere 2 in nearby Oracle, Arizona is managed by The University of Arizona, and serves as a laboratory for controlled scientific studies, an arena for scientific discovery and discussion, and a far-reaching public education center.
History: Biosphere 2 is well-known to the public as the site of two missions, between 1991 and 1994, in which people were sealed inside the glass enclosure to measure survivability. Behind this highly public exercise was useful research that helped further ecological understanding. Columbia University managed Biosphere 2 from 1996-2003 and reconfigured the structure for a different mode of scientific research, including a study on the effects of carbon dioxide on plants. In 2007, the property was sold to a private development corporation. The Biosphere 2 now serves as a tool to perform experiments aimed at quantifying some of the consequences of global climate change.
Ecosystems: Ecosystems under glass an ocean with coral reef, mangrove wetlands, tropical rainforest, savannah grassland, and fog desert.
Size: The Biosphere 2 apparatus enclosed 3.14 acre and is located on a 40 acre campus with labs, administrative offices, and dorms.
SNRE Professor Dave Breshears and his doctoral student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Henry Adams are using the unique environmental controls of the Biosphere 2 facility to compare tree physiological response and mortality under a global-change type drought with that of current climate conditions. They are working to quantify the physiological threshold of drought-induced mortality in pinyon pine.
SNRE student and Fulbright Scholar Juan Villegas is studying the partitioning of the dominant components of the water budget--evaporation and transpiration--as a function of the amount of woody plant cover at B2 and relating this research to ongoing studies at Santa Rita Experimental Range.