Tropical Biosphere Near Berlin Turns 10 Years Old
Enlarge image Tropical plants in the Biosphere (© picture-alliance / DUMONT Bildar) Eckhard Schaaf is not in a rush. The general manager of the Potsdam Biosphere has walked through this tropical landscape countless times. Nevertheless, he still sometimes stops to search for the elusive creatures living in the hall’s many enclosures and aquariums. Then he collects together fallen petals of a banana tree and checks to see how many centimeters a nearby bamboo stem has grown. “There are days where it manages [to grow by] a full meter,” he explains to the group of visitors. On Saturday, the tropical hall in Potsdam – the capital city of the eastern German state of Brandenburg – celebrates its 10-year anniversary.
This large hall in the Potsdam People's Park was originally built as an exhibition location for Germany’s biennial national garden show, the “Bundesgartenschau.” After being closed for redevelopment, the building was reopened a year later as the Potsdam Biosphere. A total area of 7,000 square meters houses around 100 different species of plants. “Several years ago we released 300 geckos and around 500 birds into the hall and they are breeding extensively,” said Schaaf.
During the first five years of operations, the facility was run by a private company. That firm went bankrupt, however, and the state-owned Pro Potsdam GmbH took over the administration of the hall. Since then many things have changed, stresses Schaaf. “Previously the biosphere had a different concept and was heavily focused on events and entertainment.” Today the exhibitions are more oriented toward providing scientific information, he said, which has led to the biosphere expanding “above all, [its] pedagogical range” of services. A newly built wing can facilitate workshops for school classes, for example.
Drops of water are falling from the ceiling of the tropical hall. “They are left over from a tropical storm,” says spokesperson Eva Fischer. Several times a day the facility plays host to a simulated natural theater of tropical conditions over an artificial lake in the biosphere’s upper floors. The entire facility is home to the same climactic conditions that are found in a real tropical rainforest. It is particularly hot and humid inside.
But this all costs a lot of money. According to media reports, the biosphere receives state subsidies to the tune of 1.7 million euros a year. Schaaf does not wish to comment on the figure. However, the facility does plan to find a new private owner. “The running of the hall is in a transitional phase.” How long that is set to continue “depends on the decisions of the state,” according to Schaaf. But this uncertainty is not going to spoil the atmosphere at Saturday’s anniversary celebrations.