Friday, 23 September 2016

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Endangered species, like humpback whales or rhinoceroses often occupy the headlines, but the life of plants can be in danger as well. Fruit and vegetables that people have been growing for the thousands of years are dying. A research showed that of more than 8,000 species of crops grown in 1903 in the USA only 600 left by 1983. What will happen when the climate change becomes more evident and severe? Or, in case of a nuclear war or other global catastrophe? Would the existing species be enough to revive our civilization? The solution is Noahs Ark for seeds – Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is situated on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, about 1,300 kilometres from the North Pole. It is a secure fortress able to host up to 4.5 million species of seeds. Being often called a “Seed Vault of Doomsday”, Svalbard is the world’s security against botanical disasters. 

Although the media depicts the vault as a way to save the world in a case of a global cataclysm, it is used more often when gene resources lose valuable breeds because of inefficient management, emergencies, faulty equipment and natural disasters that happen quite regularly. There are approximately 1,400 seed banks in the world, however many of them are situated in politically instable countries or countries under ecological thread. For the last several years, some of national gene resources were demolished by wars or civil clashes. 

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was founded by Cary Fowler, in association with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and was fully funded (US$9 million) by the Norwegian government. Storing seeds in the vault is free to end users, with Norway and the Global Crop Diversity Trust paying for operational costs. 

The Seed Vault was opened in 2008. During the first year, it received approximately 400,000 seed samples from Ireland, the USA, Canada, Switzerland, Colombia, Mexico and Syria. In March 2013, the number of samples reached 770,000. 

The seedbank is 120 meters inside a sandstone mountain on Spitsbergen Island. The place seems ideal because of its isolation and permanent frost that helps to conserve the samples. Situated 130 meters high above the sea level it will remain dry even if glacier layers start melting. 

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Seeds are packaged in special three-ply foil packets and heat sealed to exclude moisture. Locally mined coal provides power for refrigeration units that further cool the seeds to the internationally recommended standard of −18 °C. If the equipment fails, at least several weeks will elapse before the facility rises to the surrounding sandstone bedrock’s temperature of −3 °C. 

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Running the length of the facility's roof and down the front face to the entryway is an illuminated artwork named Perpetual Repercussion by Norwegian artist Dyveke Sanne that marks the location of the vault from a distance. The roof and vault entrance are filled with highly reflective stainless steel, mirrors, and prisms. The installation reflects polar light in the summer months, while in the winter, a network of 200 fibre-optic cables gives the piece a muted greenish-turquoise and white light. 

The vault is among the list of closed sites, it is impossible to get an access to it. 

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