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Farmers Deposit Seeds in Arctic Doomsday Vault, Patrolled by Polar Bears

February 18, 2011 Comments off

Matthew Hall

Farmers from Australia are the latest donors to a polar bear-patrolled Arctic doomsday vault that stores seeds as insurance against an international food emergency.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a converted mine, is located about 800 miles from the North Pole in Arctic Norway.

An Australian delegation of farmers and scientists next week will deposit 301 samples of peas and 42 rare chickpeas in the vault, intending to protect the plant species from extinction by climatic or man-made events.

Snow blows off the Svalbard Global Seed Vault at sunrise, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008. 

John McConnico, AP
Australian farmers and scientists next week will deposit 301 samples of peas and 42 rare chickpeas in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, shown here in 2008.

“It’s a very robust structure, concrete, made into the Read more…

Global Seed Vault in Depth

January 9, 2011 Comments off

About the Seed Vault:

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is designed to safeguard more than 2 billion seeds in case of natural or man-made disaster.

Located on a Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean near the village of Longyearbyen, the vault is built into permafrost deep inside a mountain. It opened Tuesday, with 75 boxes of seeds.

Norway owns the facility — nicknamed the “Doomsday Vault” — and the Global Crop Diversity Trust is funding the seed collection.

Cary Fowler, the group’s executive director, says the world is losing a significant amount of diversity “on a daily basis.”

“When a crop variety becomes extinct, we lose the ability to use any unique trait that it might have in the future. So if it turns out that one of those crop varieties held the key to resistance to a particular insect pest or disease, or was really heat tolerant and could be used in the future to help us adapt to climate change, then it’s sort of tough luck,” Fowler tells Melissa Block.

The three storage rooms inside the vault are sealed behind air-tight doors and kept at a temperature below zero. Each one can hold about 1.5 million small packages of seeds.

The seeds that are viable for the shortest amount of time — lettuce, for example — can stay healthy for about 50 years, Fowler says.

But at the other extreme, experimental results suggest that other seeds — such as sorghum — could be safely stored in these conditions for nearly 20,000 years.

Monitoring of the seed vault will take place electronically — and no one will work at the site physically on a day-to-day basis.

Fowler says the seed vault’s annual operating cost will be about $150,000.

“We think that’s about the cheapest insurance policy anybody can imagine for the world’s most valuable natural resource,” he says.

The true meaning behind the Seed Vault : Read more…