Science And Environment: How The Eden Project Works

The Eden Project is an entertaining, educational experience featuring plant conservation and the effect of conservation on mankind and the environment.

The Eden Project is a recreated botanical environment that seeks to model the environmental, economic and social potential of mankind as envisioned by Tim Smit. The intention is to create an environment that celebrates and preserves nature while inspiring all who visit to further their understanding of nature.

Currently the Eden Project is housed within two biomes (with a third biome expected in 2005). Each biome consists of tubular steel frame and ETFE (Ethylene Tetra Fluoro Ethylene Co-Polymer) foil and is divided into four segments.

The larger biome, The Humid Tropics Biome, measures 790 feet long and 360 feet wide, and reaches a height of 180 feet at its highest point and reproduces a tropical environment, complete with waterfall. The first thing you are likely to notice upon entering the biome is the humidity. The plants and the waterfall maintain this humidity and most of the water used is collected rain runoff. Overhead sprays of water recreate rainfall indoors and further helps to maintain the high humidity needed to ensure the best possible growth from the tropical plants.

The Humid Tropics Biome is the largest conservatory in the world and contains over 1000 plant species. Made up of four sections, this huge biome contains displays representing the rainforests of the Oceanic Islands, Malaysia, Africa and South America. The displays educate the visitor on what part each plant plays in its native environment and how they are used locally by the native peoples.

The smaller biome, The Warm Temperate Biome, replicates a Mediterranean environment. Upon entering the Warm Temperate Biome one is likely to immediately notice the heavy smell of the plants and warm, dry air. This biome showcases the plants that grow in droughts, poor soil and scorching sun. It is amazing to see the many forms of protection these plants have developed to grow in poor conditions.

The third biome, when completed, will contain a desert environment much like the American South West. All biomes are explained and compared at the visitor center.

Collectively the biomes contain an estimated 250,000 plants. Each plant is labeled, with information on how the plant is commonly used. A mobile displays the dependence we have on plants, beginning with a fully furnished model home, and stripping away each layer as it correlates to particular plants. The resulting bareness is an astonishing graphic demonstration of our reliance on items made from vegetation.

Eden contains its own green house and grows many the plants from seed. In conjunction with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Eden is already planning to maintain a stock of endangered conifers. All plants imported from other countries are placed into quarantine until it is determined they carry no infectious diseases. Eden strives to ensure that there is no risk of bringing diseases from other countries to infect the native flora.

Animal life in Eden is limited to the insects, birds and lizards that are necessary to pollinate plants and provide pest control. It is not uncommon to glimpse a butterfly flitting from flower to flower or a gecko snapping up an insect. Local birds seem quite willing to make their homes inside. Eden focuses its attention on the plant life and the interactions between plant species and mankind.

The Eden Project does not only seek to educate others about conservation, they practice those ideals as well. The water collected from runoff is used to water the numerous plants, maintain humidity and keep the waterfall flowing. These ideals are repeated throughout the Eden Project, from the transportation planning consent requiring that at least 20% of visitors arriving by means other then a car, to the planned reliance on sustainable energy sources rather then fossil fuels. Many recycling containers are located throughout the grounds; there is an attempt to be "waste neutral" by bringing in more recycled materials then waste that is produced.

It is important to realize that while The Eden Project is an educational experience, it is certainly not boring or overwhelming. Many of the displays are created for children and adults alike. Eden is intended to entertain as well as educate. The goal is to promote a greater understanding of our natural world and the resources it contains.

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