Global “Doomsday” Svalbard Seed Vault

Here’s a sheer example of concept or idea coming true! Far away up in a Svalbard archipelago’s island, 1300 km away from the North Pole, stands a giant underground unit for storing plant seeds. Svalbard Global Seed Vault was established in 2008 as a safe haven for the large variety of edible plant seeds from all around the world. The purpose is to save ‘extinction of life’s existence.’ In the case of any natural disaster or any man-made ones (like nuclear war), these frozen seeds will survive, serve as a backup and protect Earth’s biodiversity that is fast diminishing.

This vault can store around 4.5 million samples of seeds. Each variety can store 500 seeds, which make it 2.5 billion samples (max.). Every country can donate their plant seeds to preserve for future generations as well.


Why this location?

In a remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, the vault is on the Norwegian island (in the Arctic Ocean) and built around 393.7 feet (that’s 120 meters) into ‘Plataberget,’ in English – ‘Plateau Mountain.’ Due to permafrost and cold climate of Svalbard, this location was chosen for other important reasons being the stability of surrounding sandstone and low radiation for the construction.      

There might be a fault in the cooling system at times, or climatic change might increase the air temperature outside. To be on the safe side from all such conditions, this location was specifically chosen to keep the rooms frozen naturally.    

Moreover, Norway is a country that is highly trusted and respected on an international level when it comes to matters of biodiversity.   

Safest seed vault: Brainchild of Cary Fowler

Seed vault

And now – where did this whole concept come from? This Global Seed Vault is the innovation of Cary Fowler who is a biodiversity advocate, scientist as well as a conservationist. Along with Consultative Group of International Agriculture Research, he conceptualized the vault to safeguard loss of these seeds in other existing banks during global emergencies.

The 1700+ genebanks existing presently across the globe are all vulnerable to disasters (both human-made and natural). So, this Svalbard Global Seed Vault was envisioned to be the safest reserve storage of world’s most important natural resource.

All the plant seeds are wrapped in three-ply aluminum packages, kept in boxes, all these at 0 degrees F. These are further kept in different shelves. The moisture level and temperature (around -18 degrees C) finally help them live for a longer time, keeping their metabolism low.    

1st withdrawal in 2015

It was recently in 2015 that the first withdrawal was made from this seed vault. Because of the Syrian war, seeds (around 38,000) from this storage were used for replacing the one damaged in other gene banks existing around Aleppo, the Syrian city. Out of those, there were many ancient varieties of Middle East as well.


Anyone cannot ask for seed samples directly!

Basically, the seed samples stored at Svalbard Global Seed Vault are duplicates of those available at genebanks worldwide. But one cannot ask for them directly; rather, one has to make a request at genebanks.      

In any event of world crisis, this giant vault would be the last hope ‘doomsday’ of humanity against becoming extinct.

(Image Credits: Croptrust, Imgur)

Global “Doomsday” Svalbard Seed Vault

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