Biospheric Theory and  Report on Overall Biosphere 2 Design and Performance  During Mission One (1991-1993)

by John Allen, FLS
Keynote paper delivered at Linnean Society of London, April 10, 1996, Fourth International Conference on “Closed Ecological Systems: Biospherics and Life Support”

Sponsored by the Linnean Society of London, The Institute of Ecotechnics (London). The Institute of Biophysics (Russia), The Institute of Biomedical Problems (Moscow)

Biospheres emerge from our observations as a structured complexity. Efforts to explain biospheres in simple terms fail, because complexity is not only functional, but involves layerings of structure. Therefore, a biosphere cannot be described in terms of process alone either. One must comprehend the entire organized complexity of a biosphere.

Every discipline in natural science from thermodynamics to culturology is involved in our understanding of a biosphere. Biospherics can be defined as the science of energetically open, relatively materially closed life systems that increase their free energy over time (Morowitz, 1968). In biospherics, one studies the total structure, dynamics, and morphology of each relatively materially separate, energetically open, life system, including its evolutionary history, together with all its interactions with other cosmic forces and entireties (Allen and Nelson, 1989).

While complexities at each level of the biosphere such as biomes and geochemistry can be studied as separate vectors, they themselves interact constituting that particular complexity which the science of biospherics studies. In addition to the fundamental scientific disciplines, many insights and bodies of knowledge exist from dealings with a biosphere under special conditions and from specialist viewpoints. Naturalists, breeders, farmers, dolphins and insects, all these and many others together form databases of increasing knowledge and know-how about aspects of a biosphere. Nor should heuristic insights from artists, mathematicians, and philosophers about biospherics be ignored.

In short, biospherics must be studied, like any science, as the processes of a class of entities that form the object of these studies (energetically open, relatively materially closed, life systems) in the same way as chemistry studies the behaviors of compounds, and physics those of atoms. The unique complexity of this class of entities arise from three major component parts: life itself — an ancient, diverse, and powerfully evolving biomass transforming the crust, waters, and atmosphere of a planet; technics — that force which is altering at an exponential rate not only the life content, but the very conditions to which Earth’s biosphere, and by definition, any artificial biosphere, must adapt; and thirdly, the expanding aims of humanity which now operates on the energetic and material scale of a kingdom — a Sixth Kingdom of life — rapidly altering the balances and behavior of the other kingdoms from bacteria to animals by means of its gigantic and increasing numbers, powers, and waste products.

Four basic ways uneasily co-exist in science to deal with understanding complex systems: One, prolonged naturalist observation, description of observed regularities and classification of parts, making a naive realist description of the field of study (E.O. Wilson, 1984).

A second, by analyzing component parts of the object of study, formulating restricted hypotheses, and then, holding all else other than the chosen part as constant as possible, measure changes produced by measured impacts.

The third way is to accept complexity as an irreducible element, and then to search for the organized structure that enables us to examine the entity as a whole, to ascertain its specific laws or regularities (Konrad Lorenz, 1977).

The fourth way is to put into an operating model a synthesis of these three approaches, together with test principles of engineering, to test the validity of the existent thinking’s predictive powers, and to provide a fecund base for new observations. This full interplay of observation, analysis and structuring to make a working apparatus in order to test and extend our knowlede of biospherics is the approach we used to create Biosphere 2. This interplay of all four scientific approaches is required to study of Earth’s biosphere, the most complex entity yet encountered.

No field of knowledge is today more desultory than the science of the biosphere in which we live. I doubt that any task today in the “Campaign of Science” is more pressing than creating a workable biospherics.

A biosphere such as Earth’s includes a lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere that in the beginning works by chemical equilibrium principles in which, however, momentary free energy creating dissipative structures arise from high energy fluxes. This system can be called the equilibrosphere which, as Lovelock and Margulis have pointed out, we can see approached in atmospheres of Earth’s companion planets, Mars and Venus (Lovelock, 1979 and Margulis and Sagan, 1986). With the onset of life, reproducing itself outerly to prolong its lineage, and replicating itself innerly to prolong its individual life span, a population pressure soon creates by natural selection a diversifying biomass that develops into a biosphere. That is, the equilibrosphere, constrained to a certain basic volume, is transformed by the summed metabolism of masses of life forms, each producing thermodynamic work, into an improbable state that proceeds to determine to a great extent the compositions, and therefore by the law of mass action, the interactions of soils, air, and waters, and by the accretion of its waste products to create new geological forms such as sulfurdomes, limestones, coral measures, and stromatalites that become what Vernadsky called the necrosphere, that discontinuous but mighty biogenic substrate of the biosphere (Kamshilov, 1976 and Lapo, 1987).

Gradually, the tropospheric composition changes begin to influence the stratosphere with the formation of the ozone layer. Life forms also react against and with each other to produce an accelerated creation of new kinds of molecules and thus to alter the very chemical composition of the planet itself, even creating in the rainforest what Richard Evans Schultes has called “The Pharmacopia” (Schultes, 1988). The actions of the components of this structure eventually differentiate the surface of the planet into biomes or cells of ecological energy, each competing to gain the maximum area for its species assemblage, producing special opportunities and pressures for evolution at their active boundaries.

Vladimir Vernadsky was the first scientist to write a paper on biospheric theory back in 1926 (Vernadsky, 1986). In it, he formulated two laws to describe and predict biospheric activities:

1) the biogenic migration of chemical elements in the biosphere tends toward the maximum of manifestation. He identified two kinds of migration: from the mass of living material and by the techniques of life, especially human technical systems.
2) Vernadsky’s second law is “the evolution of species, in tending towards the creation of new forms of life, must always move in the direction of increasing biogenic migration of the atoms in the biosphere.”
To support his theory, Vernadsky described many cases, including that of the Cambrian molluscs and corals greatly increasing the migration of calcium, of the Paleozoic forests increasing the rate of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon movement, and the Mesozoic birds moving material in the sea to the land.

Vernadsky’s two laws are special cases of two thermodynamically based laws I worked out in 1990 and discussed with, among others, H.T. Odum who said they corresponded to his findings.

1) Radiant and perhaps other forms of energies passing through a biospheric system increases the free energy in the system during the passage of time.
2) The biospheric system uses part of the energy momentum to increase its potential to extract free energy during the passage of time out of the incoming energy flux converting inorganic matter into organic matter (the “pressure of life” as Darwin called it), and then by converting the organic matter into a highly differentiating array of molecules and metabolic systems capable of storing more free energy and extracting free energy more efficiently from the flux (evolution by natural selection).
Systems which do not obey these laws are inorganic systems, technical systems, or failing biospheres. The possible efficiency of technical systems is stated by Carnot’s law. Failing or catastrophically impacted biospheric systems will either find a new level of biomass and species diversity at which the conditions of the first and second law hold true, or that biosphere will disappear. Thus Vernadsky’s biospherics builds on Darwin. But Vernadsky also adds a new dimension to Darwin’s work by showing that evolution has summing effects which produce a sustained local increase of free energy because of the special properties inherent to the potential of an energetically open, relatively closed material system (Morowitz, 1968).

Designing and Building an Apparatus to Test
the Biospheric Hypothesis

Vernadsky summed up his theories in the striking phrase that “a biosphere is a cosmic phenomenon and a geological force” (Vernadsky, 1986). His theory, united with Tsiolkovsky’s visions of space worlds, (Tsiolkovsky, 1979) inspired closed life system research in Russia under the direction of Drs. Gazenko, Shepelev, and Gitelson (Shepelev, 1972 and Terskov et al, 1979). In 1961, Dr. Shepelev became the first man in a closed life system when he lived for twenty-four hours with a chlorella reactor; later Terskov for one month (Terskov, 1975). Later Josef Gitelson operated for six months the closed life system BIOS 3 with a three person crew living with vegetables and chlorella (Gitelson et al, 1973). In 1986, I and my colleagues made contact with these extraordinary men in Moscow, and because exchange of biological data in closed systems was permitted under the US/USSR Space Treaty, and because of the generosity of the Russians with their exhaustive medical data and personal experience, the Biosphere 2 project was able to go much more rapidly forward in respect to human physiology and atmospheric gases.

But Vernadsky’s theory had also earlier inspired Evelyn Hutchinson at Yale in the USA, whose brilliant exposition that I heard in 1970 launched me into ecological as well as previous geochemical studies at a biospheric level (Hutchinson, 1970). Two of his students, Eugene and Howard Odum, thoroughly pioneered a total systems approach to ecology (Odum, 1971 and Odum, 1983), and their group had been the first to propose a closed life system project to NASA also in 1961 (Odum, 1963), when Shepelev commenced his work. NASA rejected this proposal, turning solely to the analytic CELSS approach of growing a single food such as wheat in a chamber separate from humans. In 1976, a closed life system was again proposed to NASA by Botkin, Slobodkin and Morowitz, but this was again turned down for the same reason, that the multi-variables seemed too complex for biologists to study (Botkin et al, 1979 and Maquire et al, 1978). However, Botkin’s, et al 1979 paper, “Closed Regenerative Life Support Systems for Space Travel”, showed that ecological theory could be worked out under the conditions of possessing key species lists, a few state variables, and a materially closed and energetically open life system that contained several ecosystems, provided that this closed system could have its species observed and metered throughout their temporal changes, that the observer-managers had control knobs that could adjust key state variables such as temperature, and that general rules of operation could be made that held for the different ecosystems.

These specifications for a State Descriptor: species lists, several ecosystems, key variables, closure, and scientist-managers are precisely those that we independently arrived at and used in the design, building, and operation of Biosphere 2.

Botkin et al (1979) further stated, “… a set of control policies for several goals amounts to the development of ecological theory. Suppose … we find a set of control policies for a set of goals for one ecosystem and then are confronted with a second ecosystem and a second set of goals. If we can find a way of generalizing from the first to the second situation, then we have formulated a kind of an ecological law … this kind of ecological law (is) a rule for mapping between control policies.”

Now in Biosphere 2 each biome was made with its species list that defined the range of its environmental parameters. Our control policies were set for each biome in terms of soil/sediment type, water quality, rainfall, current flow, wind flow, light, temperature, humidity, and pH by specialists in each particular biome. We specified that all of the biomass would be subtropical or tropical to simplify the problem of water control to two state changes rather than three, and we specified a high temperature limit of 110°F for physiological reasons. Within those control specs, roughly 35°F to 110°F for temperature, Biosphere 2 was to model Earth’s biosphere (Biosphere 1) as closely as possible (Nelson et al, 1993 and Dempster, 1989).

The scale was determined by the number of humans selected, eight to begin with, which we considered the smallest long-term expedition size for Mars and similar settlements. As top of the biospheric food chain, they would set a minimum size for agriculture. Their total technical and physiological activities plus agriculture would set a minimum size for the wilderness areas needed to ensure carbon dioxide, oxygen, and other atmospheric gases cycling. These scale numbers for construction were calculated based on study of Space Biospheres Ventures Test Module results ( Alling et al, 1993 and Nelson et al, 1990), the work on the analog systems in the Biospheric Research and Development Center, the BIOS3 work at Krasnoyarsk (Gitelson, 1973), the Moscow work of Shepelev and Maleshka (Shepelev, 1972), Claire Folsome’s analyses of his one-liter ecospheres (Folsome and Hanson, 1986), and by estimates of experts on the various ecosystems, the atmosphere, and the soil microbes in Biosphere 1.

In addition, by 1986, I had decided to integrate the work of our own Institute of Ecotechnics’ sixteen year research into the interplay of global ecology and global technics, emphasizing the key role of biomes both material and anthropogenic. This integration of biomes, geochemistry, microbiology, and Russian experiments led to the Institute of Ecotechnics starting up a joint-venture company, Space Biospheres Ventures, charged with the task to research, design, engineer, build, and operate Biosphere 2 (Allen, 1991). Space Biospheres soon contracted with Margret Augustine, head of Biospheric Design Corporation to be the Project Director and for Biospheric Design to be the Prime Contractor. And there is no doubt that Biosphere 2 would never have been built without her courageous and imaginative leadership (Augustine, 1987).
Aerial view of Biosphere 2
This 1.2 hectare apparatus I called Biosphere 2 because, modelling it on Earth’s biosphere with only two phases of water (except in the laboratory and kitchen), a condition that Biosphere 1 has approached during the Mesozoic, and may once again, I predicted that this apparatus would produce the complexity of phenomena that would allow the study of Biospheric Laws to proceed in what would amount to a “time microscope”. That is, due to its different scale, a picotechnology of biospheres, if you will, carbon dioxide recycle time, for example, would be speeded up by three orders of magnitude over the recycle time in Earth’s biosphere.

Such an apparatus would be of great use in eco-engineering the next steps toward sustainable life systems for space programs, in spinning off ideas and techniques to deal with the ecotechnical crisis on Planet Earth, as a platform for kinetic or process studies by specialist scientists, as a treasure house for naturalist observations, and as a laboratory to search for further subtleties in the layered structure of a biosphere.

Before building Biosphere 2, Augustine, Dempster, and myself decided to make what we called the Test Module (see figure one) to test the basic design concepts and building materials under these light conditions (Alling et al, 1990). The aim for this prototype was for one person to live inside with 100% recycle of waste, of air except for leakage on the order of 10-50% per year, of biomass other than agriculture, and of agriculture for up to one month.

Figure 1. Biosphere 2 Test Module Schematic.

With the data and experience we gained from the Test Module experiments which included myself, then Alling, then others entering and residing within it in 1987 (Alling, 1993; and Nelson, 1990), we began building the Biosphere 2 apparatus to test the two laws of Biospheric Theory so far as we could.

It was clear from our Test Module work that the two most important state variables once temperature, humidity, soils, and pH limits were determined, that would delimit our basic species lists, would be light and carbon dioxide. We further discovered that, given a specific biosphere, the carbon dioxide levels would be related to the light levels in a very definite inverse way, in other words, it cycled with the light regime changes.

Graph #1: CO2 (ppm) and Total Quantum Light (E/M2) March 92 – February 93 (72 Hour Averages)

From our own and others’ previous work we knew one method we could take that would produce an immediately 100% workable closed life agricultural system, but it would not produce the range of knowledge that would be most useful to master biospherics. This route would have been to build an agricultural-continental wilderness biome system without an ocean and with supplemental artificial light system in the agricultural biome that would produce fifty to sixty moles per square meter per day.

The other way, the one finally chosen though with great reluctance because of added operational difficulties, was to design Biosphere 2 so that it could be later be converted, if necessary or desired, to the above parameters of light, but to do it first under conditions of light and with an ocean which together would push the adaptive capacity of Biosphere 2 to the utmost. Nonetheless, by taking this design approach we stood to reap at least double the data, the most discoveries in ecological relationships, and the most managerial, engineering, and scientific know-how.

The ultimate force, however, behind this difficult choice was the decision to test the core of the Vernadsky hypothesis: that an entity of the class of Biospheres possesses, with great limits, an inherent self-organizing character. To test the hypothsis of adaptive self-organization, we decided to expose this biospheric system composed of present day tropical and subtropical biomes to the rhythm of a temperate zone light regime that would drop to an average of less than 12 moles/meter2 /day for the time around the winter solstice, in other words, to extreme conditions. The received light was so low, equal to about 50 degrees north latitude, because the spaceframes cut out just over 50% the incident light. On ten cloudy days the number fell below 5 moles/meter2 /day.

Possibilities, each predicted by specialists in that field, that would be closely monitored would be the following:

The biomes could disappear into a relatively undifferentiated total mass of bateria and algae;
The atmosphere could be rendered insupportable for most life forms by CO2, CH4, CO, or N2O going to deadly levels, or oxygen could go too high or too low. Some soil chemists believed CO2 also could drop so low as to produce a desert;
The waste could build up to toxicity;
The water could become undrinkable;
The food could be destroyed by pathogens in the soil, or by pests;
The people could not stand closed system conditions, or would barely survive, and lose all or part of their capacity to work creatively.
Each of these points, if they occurred, could, of course, not signal a falsification of Vernadsky’s theory of the relative independence of a biosphere from the specific conditions in which Biosphere 1 thrives, but only that our engineering and science needed improvement. But in the Test Module none of these events had occurred during continuous human occupancy up to 21 days, and during a year’s total experimentation. The prototype system had worked roughly as predicted. So we decided to go ahead although, in order to be indefinitely sustainable while relying primarily on sunlight, Biosphere 2 would have to be three orders of magnitude greater than the Test Module and Gitelson’s BIOS3 which are five orders of magnitude greater than Clair Folsome’s one-liter closed algae systems that still worked after twenty years.

We carefully trained a dozen individuals for seven years from which the crew of eight was selected. To coordinate research and development inside with our outside team, Gaie Alling, a marine biologist and explorer of the world’s oceans, who had created the fresh water, marsh, and ocean systems for Biosphere 2, took the reins (Alling and Nelson, 1993). Shepelev, Gazenko, and Gitelson inspected the site and went over our plans and programs. We checked our training program with astronauts. The ecology with Eugene and Howard Odum. Of course, we were responsible for the decision made.

The Two-Year Experiment

From September 26, 1991 to September 26, 1993, the two-year Mission One, under extraordinary scientific and media scrutiny, gave us unsparing feedback on our engineering, operations, data collecting, and theoretical formulations, an ideal evolutionary position for a scientific theory (Dempster, 1993b).

The Mission One closure experiment was designed to operate for these two years with a crew of eight healthy “Biospherians” (Walford et al, 1992), with the aim of supplying the entire food needed for the crew (Silverstone and Nelson, 1996), maintaining a 6,000,000 mole atmosphere low in toxics (Nelson et al, 1994), a 100% recycle of human and animal wastes and a 100% recycle of water (Van Thillo et al, 1993), and a minimum leakage of air — less than 10% per year (Dempster, 1993a), and if it failed any of these aims, to analyze the causes.

Figure 2: Biosphere 2.

The specially trained crew members were tasked to carry out all daily operations in the Biosphere (Van Thillo et al, 1993 and Nelson and Alling, 1993) as well as helping the research program with the team outside in Mission Control on sixty different individual research projects including :

Carbon dioxide modelling (Hamilton and Botkin, 1992)
Biodiversity studies (Dustan and Alling, 1996)
Oxygen cycling (Severinghaus et al, 1994)
Genetics of the fresh water fish, Gambusia spp. (Scribner and Avise, 1994)
Biomass studies (Peterson et al, 1992)
Waste Recycling and Leaf Litter and decomposition studies (Nelson, 1996)
However, the main objective of the experiment was to test the prediction that Biospheric Science had reached the level to be applied to create artificial biospheres that could operate as a free energy increasing apparatus by increasing biomass, preserving biodiversity and biomes, stabilizing its waters, soils, and atmosphere, increasing information, and providing a healthy and creative life for humans working both as naturalists and ecosystem scientists on all levels of technics — from shovel to five-level computer systems.

If Biospheric Science had indeed reached this powerful predictive level, then literally entirely new worlds of life could commence to appear and a powerful tool be available for us to better research Earth’s biosphere and possibilities on the Moon and Mars (Nelson, Allen and Dempster, 1991).

Results of the Experiment, In Brief

First, I was intentionally sitting by Oleg Gazenko when the Biospherians emerged from their two year Mission. Gazenko has observed, as head of the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, many people emerge from closed life systems, spacecraft, and from expeditions to remote places of the Earth. His trained eye studied the physiognomy of these eight individuals. He relaxed with a smile. “They’re fine, they’re in good health and spirits.” While of course, the Biospherians had undergone a battery of ongoing tests as an essential part of the experiment, and would endure more re-entry tests, how they looked at the moment of re-entry was going to give a good clue as to how they and Biosphere 2 had actually come through. Both in their cool assured handling of the complex re-entry event and in their medical testing, all, including Dr. Walford, in his late sixties, showed that Biosphere 2 had kept the humans physically and emotionally healthy (Walford, 1994). As tigers are key indicator species of Indian forests, and shark of coral reefs, so humans are of a total biosphere. These humans had furthermore functioned at a high technical, professional, and scientific level, under merciless examination from media and peers. They had all engaged in some form of artistic expression in their off-hours, including book writing, reading poetry, and creating videos.

Result number one can be summed up as: a two year mission of eight humans in an apparatus constructed to test the Two Laws of Biospherics structured on a model of Earth’s biosphere with all its hierarchical levels of systems ecology, from biomes to microbes, and with a high tech infrastructure for monitoring and control of conditions such as temperature range, waves, and wind, allowing full functioning of a complex human culture, proved that humans can live in artificial structures modelled on these laws and the structure of Biosphere 1. Biospherics had grown into a Life Science with organized predictive powers.
Many other interesting results on other levels of biospheric organization had to be obtained for this primary result to have been achieved. One group at NASA ran a computer study showing Biosphere 2 achieved self-organized criticality (Cronise et al, 1995). The waste recycle system showed for the first time that a 100% recycle of human and animal waste, as well as the small industrial effluent could be achieved in a small closed system. The water recycle system, 100%, of both the fresh water and salt water components, a completely new level in closed system complexity, showed that humans can make full use of water without pollution.

The sustainable agriculture system, the Institute of Ecotechnics’ integration of millennia tested tropical agricultural systems in order to provide a diet complete in all respects, provided 81% of the diet for eight humans on 0.2 hectare on an average of outside sunlight of forty moles of photons/meter2 /day, or about twenty inside. An increase inside of ten moles photons/meter2 /day for the colder half of the year, or to about the effective level of spring sunlight at that latitude, would easily have produced over 100%. That shows that forty adults could be supported per hectare, or four thousand per square kilometers with this biospheric kind of agriculture. The mathematics of constructing closed life system soil-based long-term sustainable agriculture was confirmed (Silverstone, 1996).

Mission Two began with a 100% food production capability attained by adding ten moles of photons/meters2 /day. I should stress again that the BIOS3, CELSS, and Test Module data had already shown in detail the correlation of light and food production, but recall that the point of the Mission One experiment running without artificial light was to check the limits of resiliency of adaptativeness of biospheric operations under extreme light conditions. Artificial lights were added in the agricultureal area during the six month transition period between Mission One and Mission Two.

The atmosphere achieved a carbon dioxide recycling so long as the outside sunlight in moles/meter2 /day equaled 25 or higher. In order to protect the ocean pH, Biosphere 2 was operated at less than 5000 ppm CO2, and therefore a carbon dioxide recycle system was used to precipitate CO2 during times when the outside light ran 15 m/m2 /day and lower (Nelson et al, 1993). Two years of heavy El Niño cloudiness gave less light than in previous weather data we had collected. Nonetheless, an increase of 5 moles/meter2 /day in the winter in illumination would provide a complete carbon dioxide recycling. Mission Two went as low as 400 ppm operating with the additional 5 moles/meter2 /day put in for the agricultural area in the summer of 1994.

The atmosphere also showed regular cycling reached with methane and carbon monoxide, two major concerns. The oxygen had a continual fall of about 0.3% per month, but the detailed work of Claire Folsome in his ecospheres, and the modeling of H.T. Odum based on his mesocosm work (personal communication), show oxygen levels falling in a tightly sealed life ecosystem to about 16% and then slowly making back part of that loss due to the progress of reactions in the substrate. However, in Biosphere 2, the loss had not ceased when the oxygen level had declined to 14.2%, when, because of its effects on humans, oxygen was injected to replace that being lost via CO2 reacting with the concrete at the higher partial pressures inside, in addition to the formation of some caliche in the soils (Severinghaus et al, 1994). This may give a warning as to increased corrosion of the re-bar in concrete structures in Earth’s biosphere as the CO2 rises, since the effect was unpredicted by our consulting engineers who based their work on present global levels of CO2. However, “riding the oxygen curve down”, showed that humans can function effectively to 16% oxygen, although we did set a 17% level for the remainder of the experiment. These atmospheric discoveries will be used in the design of bases in space.

Of both theoretical and practical importance in biospherics, Biosphere 2 experienced a continuous increase in nitrous oxide. First, in Earth’s biosphere (Biosphere 1) N2O has been measured with a slight (0.2% ppm) increase per year in recent years, by tracking CO2 upwards. However, the increase in Biosphere 1 is on the order of 40 ppm/year. It is clear that biospheres in themselves do not regulate N2O; in Biosphere 1 photolysis eliminates the excess by reactions in the stratosphere (Levine, 1989). Biosphere 2, lacking a stratosphere and ozone layer, showed one definite limit to the Gaian hypothesis of biospheric homeostasis or homeorhesis. Artificial biospheres must put in a device to deal with nitrous oxide over extended time periods since nitrous oxide at persistently high levels, say above 100 ppm, is thought to be a possibile cause of central nervous system damage.

Finally, the atmosphere was remarkably healthy in terms of pollutants, partially due to the rigorous testing for outgassing of all proposed materials prior to including them into the design.

On the engineering and production results:

When Biosphere 2 commenced its Mission One, several observers predicted that the maintenance systems would be so difficult and complex that the Biospherians would be reduced to a caricature of mechanics with no time for research and thought. (See Figure 3) Biosphere 2 maintenance took less than 10% of total Biospherian time. The powerful maintenance program and set-up put in by Margret Augustine and Mark Van Thillo showed how technics used as a back-up to utilize self-regulating properties of a biosphere can require astonishingly low levels of time, less than one man week per week for the entire apparatus (Dempster, 1996 and Dempster and Van Thillo, 1993).

Figure 3. Biospherian Time Utilization March 92 – February 93

In ecology, two major results were the increase of biomass in two years, from about 20 to 30 tons, with Biosphere 2 staying on the projected track toward a predicted total of about 60 tons of biomass. Species diversity was also well-maintained in Biosphere 2, both in the sense that all of the seven biomes stayed robustly distinct (as against some informed predictions that it would become basically “a huge bowl of slime and algae”), and in the sense that the total species diversity and the diversity in each biome stabilized at a high level. We had designed, together with a specialist in each biome, a species list that could take up to a 30% extinction and still represent the pattern of that biome (Prance, 1996).

On the basis of these results, the hypothesis of a biosphere with extensive adaptive properties of self-regulation and self-expansion, within very big limits of light input as I modelled it in Figure 4: The Noosphere, has been experimentally proven. The actual numbers are not shown in this diagram, but have been published in papers found in the bibliography. This overall design principle of Biosphere 2 which entails the synthesis of both the global ecological and global economical analyses shows the basic algorithm that governed the design, building, and operation of Biosphere 2.

Figure 4: Noosphere 1.

So, given only the initial start-up costs, with little or no restocking, this means that sustained long-term habitation of worlds in space is possible. It also means that humans can learn to collaborate intelligently with this entity that they are a part of on Planet Earth. Biosphere 2 proves that life in its totality is a force tending to actively maintain and extend itself. Since humans must be cooperating managers as well as observing scientists, let me playfully, heuristically, urge that a “Biospheric Uncertainty Principle” does exist and includes the observer as well as the observed; we are particles in a system that possesses end-points of its own which help determine our behavior, just as in Heisenberg’s Principle, the decision of the investigator determine whether it is the mass or position of the quantum that is uncertain. The Biosphere’s end-points determine either an emotional or intellectual response of the observer, and the observer’s measurement decision determines whether the geochemistry or evolution of life forms predominates in attention.

The door had swung open, as E.O. Wilson said to me, for many kinds of experiments with many kinds of biospheres, not the least being the power to be able to construct viable long term bases on other worlds such as moon and Mars. Harold Morowitz, the thermodynamicist (op.cit.) said to me, “A science must have observation, theory, and experiment. Now biospherics has all three legs of the stool.” Columbia University now makes Biosphere 2 a major center for the specialist studies of its Earth Institute and speaks of its “intellectual lure.” My colleagues and I at the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation are now applying biospherics to the study of coral reefs as a biospheric planetary phenomenon and in designing the next stage in closed life systems that include humans. The Japanese are now building “Biosphere J.”

At this point, it can be stated with no surprise to my Russian colleagues, that the ultimate objective result of the Biosphere 2 experiment of Mission One and its original projected hundred year overall mission was to produce Noosphere 1, or at the least to specify the phasespace or range of conditions in biosphere-technosphere relations that would be necessary to produce a range of noospheres. Vernadsky defined a noosphere as that point in a biosphere’s history when its technical and biospheric intelligence begin working together in such a way that technics reinforces life and life reinforces technics on a permanent evolutionary-sustainable basis (Dennet, D., 1995).

I will close by expanding the accurate but incomplete first statement in which I stated that the most important result was the emergence of eight healthy, glowing humans proving that artificial biospheres including humans in a high-tech system worked. The full result was that these eight individuals had emerged from a world which they had not polluted, with clear pure water, which had grown a vegetable empire fifty percent greater than the mass of their entry, more beautiful in form, and in which they had maintained and furthered their various position at the forefront of the world of technics. In short they, working in harmony with Biosphere 2 and appropriate technical systems from waste disposal to the control of climate to billion byte communication appearances had lived in Noosphere 1. Artificial biospheres can now be designed at level of noospheres. Biosphere 1 genomes and the rapidly evolving memomes (Dennet, 1995) in the world market technosphere not only should but actually can advance to the cooperative or synergistic level of being a noosphere, balancing the evolutionary needs of life and the cosmic imperatives of technics. Noospheres will be the means to the full realization of Vernadsky’s vision of biospheres as a cosmic phenomenon, and the enhancing and ensuring of species diversity (Wilson, 1992) by dealing with life as a biospheric phenomenon will be the realization of Darwin’s evolutionary biology.



Allen, J. and M. Nelson. 1989. Space Biospheres. Synergetic Press, Inc.

Allen, J. 1991. Biosphere 2 The Human Experiment. Viking/Penguin. pp. 156.

Alling, A., L. Leigh, T. McCallum and N. Alvarez-Romo, N. 1990. “Biosphere 2 Test Module Experimentation Program”. Biological Life Support Systems, Proceedings of the Workshop on Biological Life Support Technologies: Commercial Opportunities, (ed.) Mark Nelson and Gerald Soffen, Synergetic Press, 1990.

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