Seeds on Ice in Svalbard

3/28/2008 // The world’s seeds are being frozen inside a mountain in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. On Tuesday 26 February, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was officially opened.

“Norway simply couldn’t have given the world a greater gift than ensuring that the genetic diversity of all the world’s cultivated plants will be preserved. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is unique. No other seed bank will have greater genetic breadth, or be more secure. Even if all the technology were to fail, the seeds will remain safely stored at temperatures far below freezing for an extended period of time,” says Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust.


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault viewed from outside. Photo: Global Crop Diversity Trust.

The Global Seed Vault will preserve food plants from all over the world in Svalbard’s permafrost. The seeds will be stored over 100 metres into an Arctic mountain, at a temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius.


The Global Seed Vault prior to completion. Photo: Mari Tefre/ Global Crop Diversity Trust.

Diversity for the future
Development and the environment are prioritised areas for Norway, and the preservation of seeds from food plants has long been a key part of Norwegian and global efforts to safeguard the world’s biodiversity and adapt to climate change and global warming. It is hoped that the world’s population will thereby be secured food in the future.


The shelves are prepared for receiving seeds from all over the world. Photo: Mari Tefre/ Global Crop Diversity Trust.

A secure location
Svalbard emerged as a secure location for storing and safeguarding the world’s seeds. The cold climate, combined with the fact that the seed banks are placed far into the mountain, guarantees stable permafrost for the foreseeable future. The vault is situated high above sea level, which means it will be unaffected by changes in sea level as a result of global warming.


The Global Seed Vault is situated just outside the town of Longyearbyen. Photo: Mari Tefre/ Global Crop Diversity Trust.

High-capacity
The Global Seed Vault is made up of three mountain halls, with each hall around 1500 cubic metres in size; that is to say, 25 metres deep, 10 metres wide and 6 metres high. The halls’ combined capacity translates into storage space for 4.5 million seed samples from literally all over the world.

The vault is situated just outside the town of Longyearbyen. The ideal storage temperature for seeds is below minus 18 Celsius, which means that there are additional refrigeration units inside the mountain.


Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. Photo: Mari Tefre/ Global Crop Diversity Trust.


Source: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs   |   Bookmark and Share