A vault designed to protect important seeds from global catastrophe may soon fall victim to exactly that – global warming.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, better known as the Doomsday Vault, stores important seeds from various crops, aiming to guarantee their safety.
Located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, part of the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, the vault keeps the seeds at -18°C (-0.4°F) to delay aging.
As the official website for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault explains, the seeds are also kept in foil packages and are prevented from being exposed to oxygen, adding:
Permafrost and thick rock ensure that the seed samples will remain frozen even without power. The Vault is the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply, offering options for future generations to overcome the challenges of climate change and population growth.
Currently, the Vault holds more than 968,000 samples, originating from almost every country in the world.
A temperature of -18ºC is required for optimal storage of the seeds, which are stored and sealed in custom made three-ply foil packages.
The packages are sealed inside boxes and stored on shelves inside the vault. The low temperature and moisture levels inside the Vault ensure low metabolic activity, keeping the seeds viable for long periods of time.
However, a new report released by The Norwegian Centre for Climate Services (NCCS) suggests global warming could be a threat to the vault.
The report explains how the Svalbard Islands have seen dramatic changes over the past decades, all thanks to global warming.
The air temperature on the islands has warmed up to 5°C since 1971, and this is set to increase to 10°C by 2100.
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900,000 seeds. One mountain on a remote island in the Arctic. Since Richard Christiansen's recent visit, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has been making front page news. With temperatures steadily rising, the permafrost recently melted causing flooding in the entrance of the tunnel. Thankfully, the seeds are ok 👌🏻#AdventureToTheNorthPole #OnTopOfTheWorldWithRichard
This increase could lead to the permafrost, the natural insulation which protects the seeds thawing, jeopardising the vault.
The report adds increased rainfall and shorter snow seasons may also cause issues explaining:
The air temperature in Svalbard has increased by 3 to 5°C during the last four to five decades. In the later years, there have been episodes of heavy rainfall during winter.
Fjords along the west coast have become ice free most of the year. The permafrost has warmed considerably, and there have been a number of avalanches in and near Longyearbyen.
It concludes even recent upgrades to the vault may not be enough to protect the seeds.
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