All About Our Rainforest! Biosphere 2 Facebook Live October 2, 2018

All About Our Rainforest! Biosphere 2 Facebook Live October 2, 2018

Hello and welcome to Biosphere 2 Live. My name is John Adams and today I am going to talk to you about our amazing rainforest My name is John Adams and today I am going to talk to you about our amazing rainforest My name is John Adams and today I am going to talk to you about our amazing rainforest that we have inside this remarkable facility. that we have inside this remarkable facility. So, its kind of odd to think about an equatorial rainforest here in Southern Arizona but that’s exactly what the original designers and creators of Biosphere 2 created and constructed here. The rainforest here is approximately 144 feet on its side and 91 feet tall at its tallest point. So that’s about a half acre in size. What you can’t see, and what’s really remarkable is its complete with a stream, a waterfall, there’s a central mountain out of sculpted concrete that resembles or looks like rock. In fact, this structure is very realistic. It has moss growing over it, and then you can see the area was actually heavily vegetated with a number of different plants inside the system. So, one of the things we often get asked is How many plants are inside Biosphere 2’s rainforest? And so originally, there were over 400 species planted in this system. Now today, we just recently had a grad student from the University of Arizona who finished up surveying and that number is just a little bit over 90 species. Now everybody sort of takes a step back and goes “That’s a huge loss!” You know, “What is happening with the system?” Well, that was exactly what was anticipated. And, in fact, the reason that they packed in so many different species in this rainforest, was specifically to see what would happen to see actually which species were going to survive but also, the hope would be is that the end of this self- organization period, we would still have a very diverse community. Which is what we feel we have today. Now, one of the other questions we get asked, and this gives me a good moment to mention that if you do have questions that I’m not answering or covering and you’ve always wanted to ask, please go ahead and put them forward. I’ve got my colleague Katie Morgan and Jason, who are monitoring the feed. They’ll go ahead and relay those questions to me and I’m happy to answer them as we go through. If by chance, we don’t get an opportunity to answer your question, we will be responding to comments and we will also provide any critical links that we think will help you further understand Biosphere. So, the species that were put in here, were selected primarily from the New World tropics. So that area around the Amazon basin there in South America. Additionally, what they did put in, is they packed in as many different types of insects that they could get, not only those that were found sort of regionally, but also those that were found locally here There were a few reptiles and amphibians. And today, there are still remnants of those every now and then, occasionally we will see a tree frog in here. We might see a lizard, and it’s called an Alligator Lizard There are spiders if you look around. Now, if you dig around the soil, you’re going to find a really diverse community of organisms. You’ll find round worms and flat worms, you’ll find some millipedes. You come in here at night and often times this gives people sort of the ‘creepy crawlies’ or the chills because this entire place is run with and run by roaches, and so we have a number of different roaches and you go, “Well, why did they put roaches inside?” Well, they put roaches inside because they are critical in helping to break down material and biomass. One of the things for this rainforest that we don’t do, is that we don’t come in and fertilize it. So, we are dependent upon the system naturally recycling the nutrients back into the soil for the plants to take up like those that I’m standing here in front of. Now, when you think about Biosphere 2 and its original history, you hear so much about some of the challenges that original group faced. And one of the big challenges was decreasing oxygen, increasing carbon dioxide. Well, the rainforest here inside Biosphere 2, was one of the big culprits of this. And what I mean by that is the soils right here that I’m standing on and that these plants are growing in, They did not have the opportunity to go down in the Amazon basin and collect them. Soil scientists said, “Well, if you can’t go there, maybe you go to Georgia and bring over and actually come by train and bring those soils here.” They couldn’t do that. So what they had to do, they had to use local amendments, they had to blend them with the best of their knowledge using a lot of the scientific data and scientific experts in these areas, to create this rainforest soil. They did a great job. They created a very rich material. And that material, was designed to support this intensive growth of plants that they envisioned was going to take place and happen. But, what is also did, is it provided a great environment for microbes. It was extremely rich, and therefore, these microbes flourished. And, in fact, what ended up happening, is the microbes would take in oxygen, they would give off CO2. And that pace was much faster than these plants could in turn, take in carbon dioxide and conversely split water and give off oxygen, so that there would be a balance. And so the soils, in particular the rainforest and also the agricultural areas of Biosphere, contributed heavily to this atmospheric imbalance that was experienced. Again, for those of you just joining us, my name is John Adams. I’m deputy director here at Biosphere 2 and today, we are coming to you live from inside Biosphere 2’s rainforest. Now, we’ve done some remarkable research inside Biosphere 2 rainforest, and I hope that you will join us here in the coming weeks because we are going to hear from our research team, as well as the managers who run this system inside. Now, when you look around Biosphere 2’s rainforest, again one of the things that people notice is there’s not a lot of animal life. So, you’re not going to see a jaguar coming through the lower floor, you’re not going to see monkeys traversing the canopy inside this system. Those types of large vertebrates would’ve been very difficult, if not impossible, for that original group to put inside here. What they wanted to do is create a system that would be self-sustaining and would not necessarily need a lot of help from those who were originally managing the system. Therefore, why we don’t have large mammals or even other large vertebrates in the system. Now, most of the plants that I’m standing among, they came in at about 10 to 12 feet, maybe 15 feet in height. We have now plants that are touching the very top reaches of Biosphere. So, they’re in excess, or close to, 90 feet tall. We’ve got them spaced throughout, but we have had a very dramatic loss in those species. One of the things that’s very interesting, is that this is probably the hottest rainforest that you’re ever going to be in. That’s allowed our researchers to do some interesting research, but also, is why we believe that some of the species that were originally put in here, some of these orchids and vermilliads that require very narrow temperature and very strict humidity ranges, did not survive. But, the plants that we do see surviving, they emit certain compounds that give them some adaptive characteristics and traits to allow them to deal with warmer temperatures. So our research team, in part, is studying these traits, and you’re going to hear more from them in the future. So this about wraps up the presentation today, but what I want to do, again, if there’s any questions out there, this would be a great opportunity to take them. Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you in the coming weeks. Next week, please be on the look out for our Instagram, and our Facebook, and our Twitter posts. We will let you know when our rainforest manager, Jason, will be presenting from inside here. What he’s going to do is describe what is actually takes to manage and run a rainforest inside of the closed environment of Biosphere 2, and really talk about some of the unique traits of the plants that we have inside. If you’re interested in learning more about Biosphere 2, we have a great open course, and it’s called a MOOC: A Massive Open Online Course that you’re more that welcome to take. We will provide a link for you to click on and then if you’d really like to get an in-depth understanding of Biosphere 2’s rainforest, I encourage all of you to participate in our researcher’s tour. So, the 20th of this month, which is a Saturday at 2pm, we offer a rainforest researcher’s tour. It’s going to be led by Dr. Joost Van Haren, and he going to talk to you about all the different aspects of Biosphere 2’s rainforest, what it took to create it, what we have today, and how we’re going to be using it from a research perspective to better understand the changes that we’re seeing in the rainforests around the world. And we will also provide a link on our website for you to view. Again, thank you very much, my name in John Adams, and thank you for participating in Biosphere Live.

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