Biosphere 2: It was build as airtight closed ecological system with plants, insects and animals over 13000m². Between 1991 – 1993 eight people lived in there to prove that life is possible isolated from the earth’s biosphere. The system became quickly unstable – in the end the experiment failed.
Biosphere 2 was a weird project.
It was created by a group of environmental fanatics / improvisational actors who had no concept of how to design an experiment. The biomes were chosen more on aesthetics than function, and the plants and animals were chosen on whim rather than any actual attempt to design an ecosystem where the organisms complemented each other. As baffling as the fog desert is, what kind of enclosed ecosystem needs a coral reef? They also ignored all advice from experts, such as “hey your crops need this kind of soil to grow” or “don’t use UV-treated glass or all your bees will die”. And to top it all off, these untrained people were the ones who lived inside the biosphere, rather than choosing a group of people who were psychologically stable and/or suited to the tasks required. Eventually all the scientific advisors the project did have resigned because they were sick of dealing with the bullshit.
However, despite all the trouble, there were some pretty interesting results. After the bees died out, cockroaches and then ants (both of which had breached the “seal”) took over pollination of plants. It was discovered that trees basically require wind to push them around while they grow, so that they gain structural strength, otherwise they’re unable to support their own weight later in life. The biospherians ended up having a very sparse diet, and coupled with the oxygen troubles a lot of things were learned about human health. Just imagine what else we could have discovered if people who knew what they were doing had designed this thing!
(Here’s a page about it which cites some sources.)
From the inside:
Biosphere 2 with dead vegetation: