Arctic Global “doomsday” vault opened. Washington post photo.
Deep beyond the rim of the Arctic Circle on a Norwegian archipelago the Svalbard Global Seed Vault stands rimmed in hoar frost and surrounded by permafrost. The vault, which holds roughly 860,000 and 4,000 plant species seeds from nearly every country on Earth, is a safeguard against climate change and major planet transformations. Even if Earth lost electrical power, the seeds stored within the vault could survive two centuries minimum.
The fact the vault needed to be opened by The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (or ICARDA) is concerning. Is global warming affecting how our reserve seed inventory is managed? The center relocated from Syria to Beirut in 2012 due to conflict in the region. They now have requested 130 boxes of the originally stored 325 boxes of seeds stored in the vault. ICARDA needed these samples as part of its ongoing role of growing seeds and distributing them throughout the world to various nations.
ICARDA’s mission partly focuses on researching and cultivating plants that are able to adapt to shifting climate patterns most importantly in dry areas of Africa, Australia and the Middle East. Over 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface is classified under dry regions and 2.5 billion people reside in these areas. The Syrian conflict interrupted the center’s critical and important work.
Many of the world’s first grains and cereals are believed to have derived from the Levant in Syria widely considered a cradle of civilization now besieged by intense conflict and mass exodus.
The Global Seed Vault in Norway will undergo improvements. Getty Images photo.
Norway will make critical improvements to the Global Seed Vault located on Svalbard Island in the Arctic. Melting permafrost in an unusual Arctic summer caused water to enter the front section of the vault. No stored seeds were damaged though safeguards will be taken to prevent future incidents of risk.
The storage facility lies predominantly inside a mountain with consistent cool temperatures ideal for preserving seeds from around the world.
Ironically the protected storage facility stores seeds in case a country sustains a disaster of some sort that necessitates replanting of key vegetation and plants. Nobody anticipated that the facility would have its own near – disaster. Water from melting permafrost seeped into the entry tunnel though never made it further into the storage area.
Plans to waterproof the walls as well as install drainage ditches outside the vault entrance are underway to ensure the precious seeds are safe. Scientists describe the vault as the most important room in the world.
When the vault was constructed, the idea of permafrost melting this far north was unheard of. In a short period of time we have seen climate changes of an extreme measure. Last October temperatures rose from a normal of -10C to around 0 C…causing meltwater to appear.
The vault stores seeds from nearly 5,000 crop species from all over the planet. The dried and frozen specimens can be preserved for hundreds of years in the vault. Most countries on Earth have their own emergency supply of seeds though they also store back-ups at the Global Seed Vault.
Recently we reported on the deposit of 50,000 seeds into the “Doomsday Vault” on Svalbard Island in Norway. The vault is buried in the side of a snow packed mountainside and sealed to preserve the precious seeds that produce Earth’s food supply. In case of a catastrophic event jeopardizing our most fruitful plants and vegetables, these seeds are stored safely and can remain usable for nearly two centuries. The consistent cool temperatures resulting from the surrounding permafrost act as a built in refrigeration system.
Now, another similar storage system on the same island, Svalbard, is serving to protect the massive information files for humanity. The new “Digital Doomsday Vault” or Arctic World Archive, managed by Norwegian company Piql as well as a Norwegian coal mining company, will store data transferred to film for 1,000 years or more.
Global Doomsday seed vault on Svalbard Island. Global Crop Diversity Trust photo.
National Archives of Mexico and the National Archives of Brazil have sent data so far to be stored in the vault.The Brazilian constitution was one of the documents sent though the storage facility is open to any and all historic documents states Piql.
All data processed by Piql will be formatted to photosensitive film which is impossible to delete or manipulate and is able to resist heavy wear and tear. When data is stored in analog form the contents is protected from remote alteration or cyber attacks of any kind. Considered more future proof than digital, analog requires no special updates or codecs to read the information if some rest of catastrophic degree were to occur. As long as internet servers are functional all data will remain accessible online and digitally delivered or shipped by request of a user.
These film reels will be stored deep inside a permafrost encased abandoned mine with a consistent temperature of 0 degrees Celsius.
Photographers stationed outside the “Doomsday” seed vault in Svalbard at its opening in 2008. (AP Photo/John McConnico)
Having both the “Doomsday” seed vault and now, the “Doomsday” data vault on the same island, Svalbard, opens up discussion from critics on ease of terrorism or natural disaster implications. With the widespread and multi – level destabilization in our world today, these precious archives will help humans piece together a cultural puzzle should a catastrophe of mass proportions destroy large amounts of data.
The “Arctic Doomsday” seed vault just took in a hefty deposit of some of the world’s most varied and treasured plant seeds to store in case of a world catastrophe.
Arctic “doomsday” seed vault in Svalbard. @christophorus photo
The recent deposit to the Global Seed Vault consisted of 50,000 seeds from several countries around the world including the US, Britain, and Pakistan.15,000 of those seeds derived from the International Center for Agricultural Research (ICARDA), restoring some of the seeds they borrowed three years ago. The vault has been the go – to storage facility as ICARDA’s other facility is inaccessible in Aleppo, Syria due to sustained conflict. The organization, which strives to improve agricultural production in dry zones such as the Middle East and Africa, borrowed potato, rice, barley, lentil, wheat and sorghum seeds previously and has since relocated its operations to Morocco and Lebanon.
“Together, the nations that have deposited their seed collections account for over a quarter of the world’s population,” Marie Haga, Executive Director of Crop Trust, the organization behind the vault, said in a statement.
The vault, located on the remote Arctic isle of Spitsbergen is buried 425 feet inside a mountain and covered with snow. The consistent cool temperatures from permafrost levels and low seismic activity are crucial factors in its location and ability to sustain seeds for hundreds of years.
Schematic of the Doomsday Vault in Spitsbergen.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault currently hold just under a million seeds and has a full capacity of 4.5 million. The Seeds would be a backup for key agricultural staples in the case of a global catastrophic incident.