Model Systems


The Rainforest mesocosm, at the north end of Biosphere 2, was created to simulate several tropical Rainforest habitats.  The biome can be divided into the following habitats:

  • Lowland rainforest includes most of the eastern part of the biome. It is dominated by large trees with a ground layer of aroids.
  • Terraces surround the east, west and north sides of the central "mountain." Small trees including papaya, coffee, and palms are in these areas.
  • Ginger belts contain fast-growing large monocots such as banana, gingers, and bird-of-paradise to reduce lateral radiation from outside.
  • Bamboo belt of dense bamboo species was intended to screen the biome from airborne salt that might be entrained from the ocean biome.
  • Varzea, intended to simulate an Amazonian seasonal floodplain, is located in the southwest corner of the biome.
  • Tepui (Cloud forest) was designed to simulate a highland cloud forest. Due to high temperatures vegetation evolved into a marsh dominated by umbrella sedge and morning glory vines.

Rainforest Topology mapInitially, about 300 species of plants were introduced with an emphasis on neotropical species and plants used by indigenous people. Dominants among the surviving plant species (less than 100), include Clitoria racemosa, Ceiba pentandra, Musa spp., Arenga pinnata, Epipremnum pinnatum, Syngonium podophyllum, and Cissus sicyoides. The dominant species have changed since initial assembly due to both managerial and ecological factors. One managerial influence occurred in the early years; Leucaena leucocephala, a fast growing legume tree species, was planted throughout the biome to shade the newly planted seedlings. This species was removed in early 1994 to give room for other tree species.

The soils in the biome are synthesized from local material with textures ranging from sandy loam to clayey loam. In profile, the soils contain a top soil layer which is usually less than one meter thick and subsoil which consists of gravelly granite material.

We welcome new collaborations and research projects in the Biosphere 2 Tropical Rainforest. Please contact Laura Meredith, Rainforest Science Director, and Peter Troch, Biosphere 2 Science Director to discuss or initiate any projects.



2019 (In Press)

Methane emissions from tree stems: a new frontier in the global carbon cycle . Barba, J., Bradford, M. A., Brewer, P. E., Bruhn, D., Covey, K., van Haren, J., Megonigal, J. P., Mikkelsen, T. N., Pangala, S. R., Pihlatie, M., Poulter, B., Rivas-Ubach, A., Schadt, C. W., Terazawa, K., Warner, D. L., Zhang, Z., Vargas, R. (2019): The New phytologist 222(1): 18-28.

2018 (Published)

Isoprene emission structures tropical tree biogeography and community assembly responses to climate . Taylor, T. C., McMahon, S. M., Smith, M. N., Boyle, B. , Violle, C. , Haren, J. , Simova, I. , Meir, P. , Ferreira, L. V., Camargo, P. B., Costa, A. C., Enquist, B. J. and Saleska, S. R. (2018): New Phytologist 220(2): 435-446.

2016 (Published)

Between control and complexity: opportunities and challenges for marine mesocosms . Sagarin, R.D., Adams, J., Blanchette, C.A., Brusca, R.C., Chorover, J., Cole, J.E., Micheli, F., Munguia-Vega, A., Rochman, C.M., Bonine, K., van Haren, J. and Troch, P.A. (2016): Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14(7): 389–396.

2015 (Published)

The Effect of Drought on Stomatal Conductance in the Biosphere 2 Rainforest . Gay, J. and van Haren, J. (2015): STAR (STEM Teacher and Researcher) Program Posters.

2014 (Published)

Mechanistic insights on the responses of plant and ecosystem gasexchange to global environmental change: Lessons from Biosphere 2 . Gonzalez-Meler, M. A., Rucks, J. S., Aubanell, G. (2014): Plant Science 226: 14-21.

2014 (Published)

Phytogenic biosynthesis and emission of methyl acetate . Jardine, K., Wegener, F., Abrell, L., van Haren, J. and Werner, C. (2014): Plant, Cell & Environment 37(2): 414–424.

2012 (Published)

Canopy conundrums: building on the Biosphere 2 experience to scale measurements of inner and outer canopy photoprotection from the leaf to the landscape . Nichol, C. J., Pieruschka, R., Takayama, K., Förster, B., Kolber, Z., Rascher, U., Grace, J., Robinson, S. A., Pogson, B., and Osmond, B. (2012): Functional Plant Biology 39(1): 1-24 .

2012 (Published)

Green leaf volatiles and oxygenated metabolite emission bursts from mesquite branches following light–dark transitions . Jardine, K., Barron-Gafford, G. A., Norman, J. P., Abrell, L., Monson, R. K., Meyers, K. T., Pavao-Zuckerman, M., Dontsova, K., Kleist, E., Werner, C., Huxman, T. E. (2012): Photosynthesis Research 113(1): 321-333.

2011 (Published)

Within‐canopy sesquiterpene ozonolysis in Amazonia . Jardine, K., Yañez Serrano, A., Arneth, A., Abrell, L., Jardine, A., van Haren, J., Artaxo, P., Rizzo, L.V., Ishida, F.Y., Karl, T., Kesselmeier, J., Saleska, S., Huxman, T. (2011): Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 116: D19301.

2010 (Published)

Land surface modeling inside the Biosphere 2 tropical rain forest biome . Rosolem, R., Shuttleworth, W.J., Zeng, X., Saleska, S.R., Huxman, T.E. (2010): JGR: Biogeosciences 115: G04035.

2010 (Published)

Gas Phase Measurements of Pyruvic Acid and Its Volatile Metabolites . Jardine, K.J., Sommer, E.D., Saleska, S.R., Huxman, T.E., Harley, P.C. and Abrell, L. (2010): Environmental Science & Technology 44 (7): 2454–2460.

2006 (Published)

Drought effect on isoprene production and consumption in Biosphere 2 tropical rainforest . Pegoraro, E., Rey, A., Abrell, L., van Haren, J., Lin, G. (2006): Global Change Biology 12(3): 456-469.

2005 (Published)

Remote sensing of heterogeneity in photosynthetic efficiency, electron transport and dissipation of excess light in Populus deltoides stands under ambient and elevated CO2 concentrations, and in a tropical forest canopy, using a new laser‐induced device . Ananyev, G., Kolber, Z.S., Klimov, D., Falkowski, P.G., Berry, J.A., Rascher, U., Martin, R., Osmond, B. (2005): Global Change Biology, 11(8): 1195-1206.

2005 (Published)

Drought‐induced nitrous oxide flux dynamics in an enclosed tropical forest . van Haren, J.L., Handley, L.L., Biel, K.Y., Kudeyarov, V.N., McLain, J.E., Martens, D.A., Colodner, D.C. (2005): Global Change Biology 11(8): 1247-1257.

2005 (Published)

The effect of elevated atmospheric CO2 and drought on sources and sinks of isoprene in a temperate and tropical rainforest mesocosm . Pegoraro, E., Abrell, L., van Haren, J., Barron-Gafford, G., Grieve, K.A., Malhi, Y., Murthy, R., Lin, G. (2005): Global Change Biology 11(8): 1234-1246.

2004 (Published)

Functional diversity of photosynthesis during drought in a model tropical rainforest – the contributions of leaf area, photosynthetic electron transport and stomatal conductance to reduction in net ecosystem carbon exchange . Rascher, U., Bobich, E.G., Lin, G.H., Walter, A., Morris, T., Naumann, M., Nichol, C.J., Pierce, D., Bil, K., Kudeyarov, V., Berry, J.A. (2004): Plant, Cell & Environment 27(10): 1239-1256.

2004 (Published)

Changing the way we think about global change research: scaling up in experimental ecosystem science . Osmond, B., Ananyev, G., Berry, J., Langdon, C., Kolber, Z., Lin, G., Monson, R., Nichol, C., Rascher, U., Schurr, U., Smith, S., Yakir, D. (2004): Global Change Biology 10(4): 393-407.

2001 (Published)

Sensitivity of photosynthesis and carbon sink in tropical rainforests to projected atmospheric CO2 and climate change . Lin, G., Berry, J., Kaduk, J., Southern, A., van Haren, J., Farnsworth, B., Adams, J. (2001): Science Access 3: S32-009.

2000 (Published)

Comparing micrometeorology of rain forests in Biosphere-2 and Amazon basin . Arain, M.A., Shuttleworth, W.J., Farnsworth, B., Adams, J., Sen, O.L. (2000): Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 100(4): 273-289.

1999 (Published)

Tropical rainforest biome of Biosphere 2: Structure, composition and results of the first 2 years of operation . Leigh, L.S., Burgess, T., Marino, B.D., Wei, Y.D. (1999): Ecological Engineering 13: 65-93.

1999 (Published)

Ecological Dominance by Paratrechina longicornis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), an Invasive Tramp Ant, in Biosphere 2 . Wetterer, J. K., Miller, S. E.,Wheeler, D. E., Olson, C. A., Polhemus, D. A., Pitts, M., W. Ashton, I., Himler, A. G., Yospin, M. M., Helms, K. R., Harken, E. L., Gallaher, J., Dunning, C. E., Nelson, M., Litsinger, J., Southern, A., and Burgess, T. L. (1999): The Florida Entomologist 82(3): 381-388.

1999 (Published)

Characteristics of soils in the tropical rainforest biome of Biosphere 2 after 3 years . Scott, H.J. (1999): Ecological Engineering 13: 95-106.

1999 (Published)

Basis for rainforest diversity and biosphere 2 . Leigh, L.S. (1999): Disertation in Environmental Engineering Sciences, University of Florida, UMI Number: 9946010, 342 pp.

1999 (Published)

Ecosystem carbon exchange in two terrestrial ecosystem mesocosms under changing atmospheric CO2 concentrations . Lin, G., Adams, J., Farnsworth, B., Wei, Y., Marino, B.D., Berry, J.A. (1999): Oecologia 119(1): 97-108.

1998 (Published)

An experimental and modeling study of responses in ecosystems carbon exchanges to increasing CO2 concentrations using a tropical rainforest mesocosm . Lin, G., Marino, B.D., Wei, Y., Adams, J., Tubiello, F., Berry, J.A. (1998): Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 25(5): 547 - 556.