In recent years, the fate of the world has been a hot topic. the population is clearly growing more and more conscious of the Earth’s pending demise and/ or its devastation. In the coming years it will be more difficult to provide enough food to the world’s growing population. Climate change makes it more difficult and expensive to produce food. It is in this context that the seeds stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will play a crucial role in the future.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, about 1,300 kilometer from the North Pole. Often called the Doomsday Vault, almost a million seeds are stored there in case the world needs to restore biodiversity. These seeds are held in special packaging in −18 °C temperatures.
The seed bank is 120 meters (390 ft) inside a sandstone mountain on Spitsbergen Island, and employs robust security systems. Seeds are packaged in special three-ply foil packets and heat sealed to exclude moisture.
The location of Svalbard Global Seed Vault was decided on because of its lack of tectonic activity, its seclusion from any civilizations, and the frigid climate that will deter visitors and act as natural coolers for the seeds. It is being 130 meters (430 ft) above sea level will keep the site dry even if the ice caps melt. Locally mined coal provides power for refrigeration units that further cool the seeds to the internationally recommended standard of −18 °C (−0.4 °F). If the equipment fails, at least several weeks will elapse before the facility rises to the surrounding sandstone bedrock’s temperature of −3 °C (27 °F).
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is undoubtedly a civil marvel that ensure the safety of seeds for the next generation during large-scale regional or global crises.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault officially opened on 26 February 2008. Approximately 1.5 million distinct seed samples of agricultural crops are thought to exist. The variety and volume of seeds stored will depend on the number of countries participating – the facility has a capacity to conserve 4.5 million.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s mission is to provide a safety net against accidental loss of diversity in traditional gene banks. It will be more frequently accessed when gene banks lose samples due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, and natural disasters. These events occur with some regularity. War and civil strife have a history of destroying some gene banks. The national seed bank of the Philippines was damaged by flooding and later destroyed by a fire; the seed banks of Afghanistan and Iraq have been lost completely. According to The Economist, “the Svalbard vault is a backup for the world’s 1,750 seed banks, storehouses of agricultural biodiversity.
The seeds are stored in sealed three-ply foil packages, then placed into plastic tote containers on metal shelving racks. The storage rooms are kept at −18 °C (−0.4 °F). The low temperature and limited access to oxygen will ensure low metabolic activity and delay seed aging.
The Norwegian government entirely funded the vault’s approximately US$9 million in a construction. Storing seeds in the vault is free to end users, with Norway and the Crop Trust paying for operational costs. Primary funding for the Trust comes from organisations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and from various governments worldwide.
Official website of Svalbard Global Seed Vault – https://www.croptrust.org/