On a remote Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. This vault acts as a databank for seeds to protect against the effects of climate change. With the warming Arctic ice, the melting permafrost got dangerously close to entering the vault. But the construction group behind the vault are upgrading defenses to keep the world’s seeds safe and dry.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is near Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen island. Cary Fowler, a conservationist, teamed up with several organizations including the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research started the vault to save many global plant seeds. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the back-up to many gene banks globally. They hope to be the backup, in case a worldwide event ever happens to one of the other gene banks, including climate change. Managed by three organizations including the Norwegian government, the Crop Trust, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center the vault uses an old coal mine and has nearly one million seeds from many countries.
According to Engadget, Statsbygg, the construction group who built the vault, is upgrading the defenses against climate change. Part of the precautions includes building waterproof walls, ditches to help direct running water away from the entrance, and moving electrical equipment. Visitors will also be restricted to reduce heat inside the vault. The seeds reported Engadget were never “threatened,” but the Svalbard Global Seed Vault did not want to take chances.
Because of climate change, the permafrost in the region never refroze in the Arctic Circle. The Guardian reported that the permafrost surrounding the vault would act as a “failsafe” against “natural or man-made disasters.” The temperature in the Arctic Circle was too high for snow. Instead, the area experienced rain. Hege Njaa Aschim, a Norwegian government spokesperson, said that a large amount of water entered the start of the tunnel and then it froze. However, the water never reached the central vault.
Phys.org reported that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault had the ice “removed” from the vault and that the Norwegian government is “taking this very seriously.” The vault, according to USA Today is capable of storing 4.5 million seed samples and protecting them from many natural disasters, climate change, and wars. Fowler, speaking to Popular Science stated that the Earth’s climate is changing, including Svalbard, and the vault must be upgraded to protect the seeds from future harm.
By Cheryl Werber