You’ve probably heard of the Global Seed Vault, a facility located in the Arctic that houses 500 million seeds collected from around the world. The vault is buried beneath the permafrost, and its purpose is to keep safe a supply of seeds we could use to regenerate our food supplies in the event of a global disaster, such as war, drought, floods, or a disease that wipes out plants. It’s also known as the Doomsday Vault.
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Recently the company that manages it, Statsbvgg, revealed that the concrete vault was breached—not by a saboteur, but by a harbinger of the kind of global event, perhaps, that caused the vault to be built in the first place. Unusually warm temperatures caused water to seep in. “The ground is looser and the permafrost has not settled as planned,” a company representative explained. The company isn’t sure whether the incident is part of a larger global warming trend that will get worse or just an isolated event, but it says scientists are investigating.
The water made it about 15 meters into an access tunnel but did not reach the seeds themselves. The company is now taking steps such a building walls at the tunnel’s entrance and moving power transformers out of that area.
The vault is not the only one of its kind; worldwide, there are hundreds of such facilities. This one, though, promotes itself as more stable and secure for several reasons. It’s remote, unlikely to be affected by wars or civil unrest; it’s in an area not prone to earthquakes or flooding (so says the vault’s website); and the location’s climate—permafrost maintaining a temperature of -18°C and low humidity—will preserve the seeds even without power. Although it contains samples of more than 864,000 varieties of plants, with about 500 seeds per sample, it has the capacity to store 4.5 million varieties, or about 2.5 billion seeds.
You can read more about the vault and its mission here.