Humans have roamed this planet for more than six million years. Modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago and civilization as we know it is only about 6,000 years old. Since then we have came a long way to achieve the technology and knowledge we possess today.
The Svalbard seed bank is a vault designed to sustain human life in the case of a disaster. Set in an Arctic mountainside, the vault contains the world’s most prized crops.
The Doorway Leads into the Side of a Frozen Mountain.
Welcome to the Svalbard seed vault, also known as the ‘doomsday vault’, which holds humanity’s best chance of feeding ourselves in a distant, disaster-filled future. The vault is located in one of the most isolated places on Earth. The objective behind the vault is very simple – in case of a disaster, the millions of seeds stored in the vault can be used to get us back in our feet.
Whether it’s global warming or diseases killing off crops, the vault can feed all of mankind. If certain parts of the world is affected by such a catastrophe, the vault will be opened. Located on top of the planet, far away from civilization and 800 miles from the North Pole, lies this amazing genetic library.
It is One of the Most Important Places on Earth.
The Svalbard seed bank is basically a hole in the mountain holding about 13,000 years of history in agriculture. Inside the vault contains boxes containing seeds. Each container or packet normally holds around 300-500 seeds.
What’s interesting about Svalbard is that the seeds are collected from all over the world. Countries or institutions choose Svalbard as a backup facility in case of a disaster.
Permafrost Helps Store the Seeds for a Long Period of Time.
The main reason behind building the vault so far north is because Svalbard is cold and has permafrost. So even in the summer, the ground never thaws. Most of the seeds can be stored for a long term at -18° C (-0.4° F).
The vault is tunneled 130 meters deep into the mountain, underneath the permafrost. Thus, additional cooling of only -12° C is required to store the seeds.
Currently the Vault Holds About 860,000 Varieties of Seeds.
The vault contains 860,000 varieties of seeds that can be stored for decades. Some of the varieties of wheat can last for more than thousands of years. Apart from being a backup in case of a disaster, the seed vault is also a genetic library of evolutionary successes.
The Seed Vault Hopes to Tackle Obstacles Such as Climate Change.
Wheat originated in the middle-east. Today we have them all over the world. Global warming has been severely affecting the growth of these plants. As climate changes rapidly, the plants are not able to adapt it, causing them to die faster.
This is one of the fundamental challenges faced by agriculture. To overcome this, a gene from a wild relative of wheat can be introduced to survive a funny climate, drought or certain diseases.
Scientists are Travelling the World and Collecting Seeds.
Since farmers and agribusiness grow crops for dollars and choose yield over diversity, we are losing genetic variety. Today in the U.S., there are only about 10% varieties of fruits and vegetables that was available 100 years ago. If the limited variety is subjected to diseases they could go extinct as their immune systems are the same. The seed vault is preparing for such a disaster by cataloging and saving the seeds.
There are 3,000 varieties of coconuts, 4,500 varieties of potatoes, 35,000 varieties of corn, 125,000 varieties of wheat, 200,000 varieties of rice and so on. One of these varieties of foods could hold the trait that we may need in the future.
It’s also a library from nature’s trial and errors from the past. This could also be one of humanity’s greatest science projects which is ongoing and awe-inspiring.
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