Tropical rainforest biome of Biosphere 2: Structure, composition and results of the first 2 years of operation
The tropical rainforest biome in the Biosphere 2 mesocosm was managed with rainfall and temperature conditions to simulate a natural rainforest typical of the new world tropics. The establishment of the biome was based on the introduction of excessive numbers of species allowing self-organization of an ecologically unique rainforest. Over 282 species of plants from rainforest areas were planted within the topographically diverse rainforest biome (area of 1900 m2, volume of 35 000 m3), just before the Biosphere 2 closure in 1991. Approximately 61% of these species survived when counted in 1993, representing a plant species richness reduction to 172 species in 0.19 hectare. Rank order graphs show that a high diversity community resulted not unlike insular rainforests. The plants of the rainforest mesocosm, however, grew under anomalous conditions of soil (amended desert grassland soil), atmospheric composition(CO2 up to 4500 ppm by volume (ppmv)) and rainwater composition (high salinity and nutrients). Stem growth rates of a dominant canopy tree, Cecropia, were up to four times higher but had reduced diameter at breast height compared to natural counterparts. Human intervention in plant succession was also an important factor in shaping the ecology of the rainforest biome of Biosphere 2.