Learning From Failure: Biosphere Ii

Biosphere II was a project done in Arizona received recognition on 26th September 1991. Eight people; four men and four women were used in the experiment. Biosphere 2 was an air tight structure with its base made of steel pan and surrounded by an above ground structure that was made of glass and steel. Inside the biosphere was all that could be found in the real world. There was a desert, a marsh, a rain forest, a savannah, an agricultural land, an ocean and human Habitat.

This was in an effort of creating something close to the earth’s ecosystem. These people were to live on air, water and food produced by plants (Allen & Blake, 2007).

The goals of the experiment were to determine the possibility of building an artificial biosphere and the potential of such biosphere surviving. Also incase the biosphere didn’t thrive then the causes would have been established. However, Biosphere II proved to be a great failure which had consumed a lot of resources in its establishment.

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Trouble started soon as the crew got into biosphere II. First, they experienced a shortage in oxygen supply hindering them from functioning well. The oxygen decreased to low levels such that more of it had to be injected into the system.

When the crew were forced to pump in more oxygen into the system in order to sustain them, this indicated that biosphere II was not self reliant. At first they did not figure out what the problem was but they later discovered that was caused by carbon dioxide which had accumulated in the system.

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The carbon dioxide accumulated at a very high rate especially in the savanna and rain forest regions. This was associated with the presence of high organic matter which the microbes metabolized and in the process consumed a lot of oxygen resulting to high levels of carbon dioxide.

It was also expected that the trees would play a very crucial role in regulating amount of carbon dioxide in the air and would have been able to supply the crew with sufficient oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. However, the plants did not seem to accomplish this role instead the level of oxygen kept on decreasing while carbon dioxide kept on increasing a phenomenon that was later discovered to have been caused by concrete that was used to build the biosphere II.

Instead of carbon dioxide being used up by plants it reacted with calcium hydroxide a major component of concrete which resulted to formation of water and calcium carbonate. This was confirmed by the scientists after testing the walls and realizing that the inner surface of the walls had calcium carbonate levels which were ten times the level of the outer walls (Alling, Nelson &Silverstone, 1993). While making their selection, the scientists had chosen different species of animals, insects and plants that they thought would survive best in the biosphere II.

However, by the end of the project only a few species had managed to survive. The rate of extinction was higher than predicted and most insect species got extinct which had a negative impact on the plants since they were no longer pollinated and thus were unable to propagate themselves. Statistics show that of the 25 species of small vertebrates present in Biosphere II only 6 survived by the end of the mission. However some species were favored by the environment in biosphere II. While others got extinct; ants, cockroaches and katydids flourished together with some plant species such as the morning glory.

The morning glory grew vigorously that it almost choked the other plants. The crew had no alternative but invested most of their time working to get food. They experienced a shortage in food supply and faced hunger most of the time. Before the two year period ended the crew had grown 85 percent of the food they consumed and got the remaining15 percent food from their emergency supplies. Since they relied on sunlight which came through the glass to grow food, the winters of 1991 and 1992 affected the amount of food they could grow (Marino, Odum &Thomas, 1999).

This proved that the project was incapable of sustaining an ecosystem that was balanced. They also faced various challenges some of which included shortage in clean water. This was as a result of pollution experienced in the water system. Many nutrients accumulated in the water systems therefore polluting it. They had to clean their water using algae mats. Other atmospheric imbalances followed suit where by levels of dinitrogen oxide in the air increased in an alarming rate such that the crew risked brain damage because vitamin B12was synthesized at an extremely slow rate (Allen & Blake, 2007).

The experiments shortcomings were also seen when the crew quarreled. The members were supposed to work together as a group in order to bring out the best results but this never happened. Instead they split into groups comprising four members each and got to the point of not talking to each other except when it was necessary to run the biosphere. The lessons that can be learnt from this failed experiment come from the mistakes committed by the scientists. First we learn the importance of taking time to plan whatever we intend to do.

Before attempting any thing one should take all measures required for proper functioning of the project. Also another critical factor to consider is the reliability of the materials and equipment to be used in the project (Alling, Nelson &Silverstone, 1993). If proper materials had been used in construction of the biosphere II then the problem of insufficient oxygen could not have occurred. The importance of using qualified personnel also arises. They used an architect who was incompetent this resulted to designing biosphere II with many faults.

However what can be learnt from this experiment in general is the importance of relating well with each other. For any thing to succeed then there should be cooperation among people concerned this translates to excellent working conditions which leads to better outcome.

References Allen J. & Blake A. (2007) Biosphere 2: the human experiment . New York: Viking publishers. Alling A. , Nelson M. & Silverstone S. (1993) Life under Glass: The Inside Story of Biosphere 2. Oracle: Biosphere Press. Marino B. D. , Odum H. & Thomas M. (1999) Biosphere 2: Research Past and Present Amsterdam: Elsevier publishers.

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Learning From Failure: Biosphere Ii. (2016, Dec 10). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/learning-from-failure-biosphere-ii-essay

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