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.
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.