Earth under glass

Some labs are spotlessly clean, but Travis Huxman’s is full of bugs, dirt and plants. Huxman works in the hillslope laboratory of Biosphere 2. Biosphere 2 makes large scale climate experiments like Huxman’s possible by allowing researchers to simulate and control a variety of natural ecosystems. Huxman can vary climatic conditions like moisture and temperature in the hillslope lab to see how future climate changes might affect his rangeland plants.

Scientists use the sealed environments of Biosphere 2 to simulate possible future climates of the American Southwest.
Scientists use the sealed environments of Biosphere 2 to simulate possible future climates of the American Southwest.
Courtesy Joe Martinez, Biosphere 2

Climate Change Science

Along with studying the environmental changes within the rangeland landscape, Travis Huxman and the scientists of the University of Arizona are developing an understanding of how shifts in this ecosystem could play a role in the global climate. Changes in rangeland productivity might cause organic matter to store more carbon… or to release it, further contributing to the greenhouse effect

Other scientists at Biosphere 2 are studying how plants like cottonwood trees might be used to effectively capture and store carbon from the atmosphere, helping to counteract pollution from human activity.

This research is helping us predict and prepare for environmental changes that may be right around the corner.

Located in the Arizona desert, Biosphere 2 is capable of simulating environments from rainforests to coral reefs.
Located in the Arizona desert, Biosphere 2 is capable of simulating environments from rainforests to coral reefs.
Courtesy Ryan Thomas, via flickr.com