Sci-tech

Global warming has led to a buried Arctic seed freezer being breached

Global warming has led to a buried Arctic seed freezer being breached

Located on an island between Norway and the North Pole, and lodged inside a mountain, the vault was created to withstand major disasters, "natural or man-made", and "stand the test of time", according to its website.

But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if the event of a catastrophe.

Since the vault opened, 940,000 seed varieties have been deposited, among them wheat, barley, potatoes and nearly 150,000 varieties of rice.

The storage facility's entrance was swamped by melted and then refrozen permafrost (soil and water) after extremely high temperatures on Svalbard caused an unusual amount of heavy rain instead of light snow to fall.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault provides a safe backup of seeds on food crops conserved by seedbanks worldwide. "It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that", said Hege Njaa Aschim, an official of the Norwegian government. As Fowler describes it, the entrance consists of a 100 meter long tunnel that runs at a slight downward slope into the heart of the mountain, before a slight uphill section leading to the vault doors.

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It is unclear how severely the seed vault will be affected in the future if temperatures in the region continue to climb.

The seed bank was supposed to operate on autopilot, but right now, workers are watching it around the clock, Aschim told the United Kingdom newspaper. "We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself".

Seeds are stored on shelves at the global gene bank. "This is supposed to last for eternity".

Work is now underway to waterproof the tunnel that leads to the vault.

Global Warming isn't about to vanish any time soon, so the question is how is the seed vault is going to cope with rising temperatures in coming years. A complete list of all the seeds and species stored in the vault can be found at the Global Seed Vault's information sharing site here. This picture from inside the vault shows the shelves with the boxes holding the seed samples.

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(Web Desk) - Many have referred to it as a vault that will ensure humanity's survival.

It was the second delivery of its kind from AgResearch's Margot Forde Germplasm Centre (MFGC), following an agreement made previous year.

The breach of what was meant to be a secure place for plant seeds is a worrying sign for the vault operators.

"This is a seed collection", the American Scientist explained previous year. The vault was built into an abandoned Arctic coal mine under the permafrost deep inside a mountain in 2008 and was really and truly expected to be a "fail-safe" measure.

While the designers of the vault seem to have taken the possibilities of nuclear wars and global pandemics into account, they may have given too little thought to one other serious threat: global warming.

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