Norway to boost fortification of Global Seed Vault

Norway to boost fortification of Global Seed Vault

Norway is preparing to boost the flood defense of its Global Seed Vault, the seed bank designed to preserve the world’s crops and plants in the case of a global disaster, after water seeped into the storage facility last year.

The Global Seed Vault is situated deep inside a mountain on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

Last year, high temperatures caused the permafrost to melt, which sent water into the facility’s access tunnel.

The incident hasn’t damage seeds stored inside the facility. But, it prompted authorities to take actins to build new waterproof walls in the tunnel as well as drainage ditches outside.

Hege Njaa Aschim said, a spokeswoman for the Norway government, said, “Inside the mountain it's safe but the problems we have experienced are just outside and in the front of the tunnel, which is the entrance. Maybe something has changed in the permafrost, but we don’t know, and that is what the climate researchers are looking into.”

“It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim.

Scientists at the seed storage facility describe it as the world’s most important room.

The Global Seed Vault has dried and frozen seeds from nearly five thousand crop species from around the world. The stored seeds are believed to be preserved for hundreds of years.

A report published by The Guardian said, "The vault’s managers are now waiting to see if the extreme heat of this winter was a one-off or will be repeated or even exceeded as climate change heats the planet. The end of 2016 saw average temperatures over 7C above normal on Spitsbergen, pushing the permafrost above melting point."

Way up north, in the permafrost, 1300 kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle, is the world's largest secure seed storage. The Seed Bank was established and is fully funded by the Norwegian government, with the responsibility for operations assigned to The Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The Ministry coordinates daily operation with the Nordic Gene Resource Centre and the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and receives guidance from a dedicated international council established to advise the Seed Bank.

The vault hold the seeds of many tens of thousands of varieties of essential food crops such as beans, wheat and rice. In total, the vault now holds seeds of more than 4000 plant species. These seed samples are duplicates of seed sample stores in national, regional and international gene banks.