Biosphere 2: Why did it fail? 

There are numerous reasons why the Biosphere 2 experiment did not work, including problems with the oxygen levels, an imbalance in the ecosystem and internal and external disputes.

In 1987, the construction of the American Earth system science research facility began in Oracle, Arizona. It would take three years to complete construction of the facility, which was a three-acre complex fitted with a miniature rainforest, a mangrove, a desert and a coral reef. The experiment was an attempt to see if scientists could create a man-made ecosystem of the Earth, as the world continues to look for tactics for human survival outside of the planet.

In September 2021, following the completion of the facility, eight members were permanently confined to the facility. The eight members were meant to stay in the facility for two years in order to gauge whether the man-made ecosystem was a viable idea for the future. It did not take long for problems to begin surfacing. The first of which was the matter of the oxygen levels within the facility beginning to drop.

© The University of Arizona / Mark Koenig

Not even 18 months after the experiment had begun, the oxygen levels in the facility dropped to a point where the members were struggling to breathe. As a result, the outside leaders of the experiment opted to channel oxygen into the facility, in an attempt to continue with the experiment. However, the problem was found to be an excess in carbon dioxide due to catalysis of microbes metabolising material. This caused the walls of the facility to produce calcium carbonate and hydrogen through the reaction with the calcium hydroxide in the walls.

Moreover, seeing as the experiment’s thesis rested in creating a balanced man-made ecosystem, it did not allow for most of the animals or plants to survive. It is believed that from the 25 chosen animal species chosen, only six survived. Moreover, by the end of the experiment, the insects were extinct, which resulted in the imbalance in the fauna, as there were no insects to pollinate the plants. Moreover, the water had too many nutrients, resulting in the need for the creation of a water filtration system to drain out the algae.

Additionally, with all this going on, there were disagreements between the members inside the facility, as it is believed that all these factors were impeding on their mental capacity. Moreover, external disagreements on the handling of the experiment occurred. All these factors resulting in the failure of Biosphere 2.