A 1990s science experiment aimed at space exploration finds a new purpose in the 21st century.
Built to test long-term human survival in a closed ecological system like a potential Mars colony, the 3.14-acre glass-enclosed structure called Biosphere 2 is now being used for investigations of climate change here on Earth. Framing her narrative as a tour of the facility, now open to and welcoming visitors, Carson’s information-packed text introduces the original experiment, in which eight people survived for 2 years, and then, chapter by chapter, describes new studies. In the rain forest, biogeochemist Joost van Haren investigates how much carbon dioxide a forest can hold and the effects of drought. An “ocean” with a no-longer-viable coral reef is being repurposed into a model of the nearby Gulf of California, under the supervision of marine biologist Rafe Sagarin. What was once a farm is now a Landscape Evolution Observatory, with replicas of a nearby hillside where hydrologist Luke Pangle studies how water, energy, and carbon move through landscapes. Sustainability coordinator Nate Allen works underneath in the Technosphere, where power and plumbing systems support the entire structure. Well-chosen, clearly captioned photographs support the text, while flashback boxes inform readers of what came before.
For middle and high school readers, an encouraging example of earth scientists working to understand and deal with climate change in new and amazing ways. (glossary, resources, index) (Nonfiction. 12-15)