Norway’s international doomsday seed bank still growing

polar-bearIn an isolated mountainside deep within the Norwegian tundra lies a contingency plan against the threat of global catastrophe. The so-called “doomsday vault” is a massive seed bank that, in the event of disaster, could be used to replenish and re-grow the world’s plants.

This latter day Noah’s Ark of seed specimens sits deep within the Plataberget (Plateau Mountain) close to the Svalbard village of Longyearbyen, a group of islands of the northern coast, where the seeds are preserved by natural arctic permafrost. Norway Post reports that these seeds will be used to replenish global stocks in the wake of any large-scale crisis.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust which administers the seed vault this week added new species of Russian volcanic strawberry, pink tomatoes from Germany and mould-resistant beans. The latest additions bring the Svalbard “doomsday” vault numbers to over half a million seed varieties.

“The region on Svalbard surrounding the Seed Vault is remote, severe, and inhabited by polar bears,” says the group that supports the vault operation, the Global Crop Diversity Trust. “Anyone seeking access to the seeds themselves will have to pass through four locked doors: the heavy steel entrance doors, a second door approximately 115 metres down the tunnel and finally the two keyed air-locked doors,” writes the Trust. “Keys are coded to allow access to different levels of the facility. Not all keys unlock all doors”.

While war destroyed other seed banks in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Svalbard vault is built to survive earthquakes and nuclear strikes.

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