Experimental Landscapes Raise Stakes at Biosphere 2

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Science  14 Dec 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6113, pp. 1417
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6113.1417

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Erected more than 20 years ago as a controversial test-bed for the human colonization of space, Biosphere 2 is back in business with the new Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO). Just like Biosphere 2, the gleaming observatory is unprecedented in scale and boasts impressive engineering. Housed inside three cavernous, glass-enclosed bays, LEO's hillslopes are realistic in size yet still offer the ability to manipulate the environment. The resulting observations will help researchers study questions such as how the flow of underground water is affected by plant growth and chemical changes in the soil. In addition, scientists will test computer models of watershed hydrology and vegetation dynamics, important for predicting environmental change from global warming.