The Doomsday Seed Vault Near the North Pole With Over 850,000 Seed Varieties

Photograph by Matthias Heyde

About 26 February 2008 that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault officially opened. The seed bank is situated 120 meters (390 ft) inside a sandstone mountain on Norway’s Spitsbergen Island, approximately 1,300 km (810 mi) in the North Pole.

Thus far, there are an astounding 864,309 seed varieties from the vault (approx. 1.5 million different seed samples of agricultural crops are considered to exist worldwide).

Photograph by Matthias Heyde

Photograph by Matthias Heyde

Spitsbergen was considered an ideal location since it lacks tectonic activity and contains permafrost, which aids preservation. It is also 130 metres (430 ft) above sea level so the site would remain dry even when the ice caps melted. The complete area is 1000 square meters, however only the concrete entry lobby is visible outside.

The vault is situated in permafrost in a constant 3-4 degrees Celsius below zero.

Photograph by Matthias Heyde

Photograph by Matthias Heyde

New seeds have been carried into the vault, packed with crates each containing a maximum of 400 seed kinds. The crates are sealed by the gene bank that deposits the seeds. Each crate holds up to 400 seed samples, and a seed sample typically consists of approximately 500 seeds sealed in an airtight aluminum tote.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million seed types, and so it can hold copies of all of the special seed types currently present in the numerous gene banks across the world, and will likewise be able to adapt new seed types accumulated later on.

The seeds have been saved at four-ply sealed envelopes, subsequently put into plastic tote containers on metal shelves racks. The storage rooms have been stored in −18 °C & C (−0.4 °F). The low temperature and limited accessibility to oxygen will ensure reduced metabolic activity and delay seed aging.

The permafrost enclosing the centre will help to maintain the low temperature of these seeds if the power supply neglect.

The seed vault is handled under terms spelled out at a tripartite agreement between the Norwegian government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) as well as the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen).

The seed vault acts as a safe deposit box at a financial institution. The bank owns the building and the depositor owns the contents of his or her box. The Government of Norway owns the centre and also the depositing genebanks possess the seeds they send.

Main funding for the Trust stems from such businesses as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and out of various authorities worldwide.

Photograph by Matthias Heyde

In Norway, government-funded construction jobs exceeding a particular cost must consist of artwork. The artwork; & “Perpetual Repercussion” by Dyveke Sanne adorns the building’s upper and roof façade front in the entry.

The artwork renders the building visible from far off both day and night, with highly reflective stainless steel triangles of various sizes. Combined with refractive elements such as mirrors and prisms, the triangles in the entry catch and reflect light and sun. The appearance varies with the time of day as well as this season.

Even the Crop Trust has worked with over 100 nations worldwide to preserve crop diversity. In 2008, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was ranked no. 6 Time’s Greatest Inventions of the Year.


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault Official Website
The Crop Trust
Wikipedia: Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Flickr: Svalbard Globale frøhvelv

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