Life Support System

Jim Barron jdbarron at cphl.mindspring.com
Sun Jan 19 11:20:14 EST 1997


Hayden James wrote:
> 
> I heard that the reason for the failure of the Biosphere 2 project was
> the constant need of replenishing of oxygen.  The plants could not
> effectively regenerate the amount of oxygen.  Also I know that the
> reason for the low levels of oxygen was the absorbtion of oxygen from
> microorganisms found in the soil and other parts.  Can someone explain
> the process of the absorbtion of oxygen from microbes? What microbes are
> resonbible for the absorbtion of oxygen in the system?

As I understand it, the root cause of the oxygen deficit was that
MATERIALS USED IN THE CONSTRUCTION of the project absorbed a massive
amount of oxygen.  If the project had been built with proper materials
and soils already in a state of equilibrium in a simialar environment
had been used, then this problem probably would not have occurred.  The
basic problem is THIS:  if you are establishing an ecoligically
independant system, you MUST give it time to reach equilibrium before
detaching it from thw "mother" environment.  Small systems do not have
the massive resevoirs (atmosphere etc.) to buffer short term changes and
so, the smaller the system, the smaller the largest fluctuation it can
endure.

It was totally unrealistic to expect that they could just put everything
in place and expect it to run itself right off the bat.   This shows
just how little we understand ecosystems.  (But then that sort of thing
was what the project was built to find out!   So it's "failure" was
really a success.)

IMHO, science did not kill it.  Politics and unrealistic expectations
did.
jdbarron at cphl.mindspring.com





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