Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Norwegian: Svalbard globale frøhvelv) is a secure backup facility for the world's crop diversity on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago. The Seed Vault provides long-term storage of duplicates of seeds conserved in genebanks around the world. This provides security of the world's food supply against the loss of seeds in genebanks due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, war, sabotage, disease and natural disasters. The Seed Vault is managed under terms spelled out in a tripartite agreement among the Norwegian Government, the Crop Trust, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen).

The Norwegian government entirely funded the Seed Vault's approximately 45 million kr (US$8.8 million in 2008) construction cost. Norway and the Crop Trust pay for operational costs. Storing seeds in the vault is free to depositors....Read more

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Norwegian: Svalbard globale frøhvelv) is a secure backup facility for the world's crop diversity on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago. The Seed Vault provides long-term storage of duplicates of seeds conserved in genebanks around the world. This provides security of the world's food supply against the loss of seeds in genebanks due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, war, sabotage, disease and natural disasters. The Seed Vault is managed under terms spelled out in a tripartite agreement among the Norwegian Government, the Crop Trust, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen).

The Norwegian government entirely funded the Seed Vault's approximately 45 million kr (US$8.8 million in 2008) construction cost. Norway and the Crop Trust pay for operational costs. Storing seeds in the vault is free to depositors. The vault has been depicted in several films and other art forms, including Marcus Paus’ children's opera Children of Ginko.

 
Entrance to the Seed Vault taken in February 2020.

In 1984, the Nordic Gene Bank (now NordGen) began storing backup Nordic plant germplasm via frozen seeds in an abandoned coal mine outside of Longyearbyen.[1]

In 2001, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) was adopted and national governments began to ratify the Treaty soon after. The Treaty establishes a multilateral system for plant genetic resources that includes providing access to the materials and providing mechanisms so that those who use the resources can share any derived benefits.[2]

A team led by conservationist Cary Fowler, in association with CGIAR,[3] actively campaigned for the development of the Seed Vault and approached the Norwegian Government. They conducted a feasibility study in 2004 and concurred that Svalbard was an appropriate location for long-term storage.[4]

Also in 2004, the ITPGRFA entered into force and created the legal framework for having one international security facility.[2] The FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture endorsed the initiative[5] and in October 2004 the Norwegian Government committed to fund the Seed Vault and begin the construction.[1]

The Seed Vault officially opened on 26 February 2008,[6] although the first seeds arrived in January 2008.[7]

As part of the Seed Vault's first anniversary, more than 90,000 food crop seed samples were placed into storage, bringing the total number of seed samples to 400,000.[8] Among the new seeds included were 32 varieties of potatoes from Ireland's national genebanks and 20,000 new samples from the U.S. Agricultural Research Service.[9] Other seed samples came from genebanks in Canada and Switzerland as well as international genebanks in Colombia, Mexico and Syria.[10] This 4 t (3.9-long-ton; 4.4-short-ton) shipment brought the total number of seeds stored in the Seed Vault to over 20 million.[8] As of this anniversary, the Seed Vault contained samples from approximately one-third of the world's most important food crop varieties.[10] Also as part of the anniversary, experts on food production and climate change met for a three-day conference in Longyearbyen.[11]

Japanese sculptor Mitsuaki Tanabe [ja] presented a work to the Seed Vault named "The Seed 2009 / Momi In-Situ Conservation".[12]

In 2010, a delegation of seven U.S. congressmen handed over a number of different varieties of chili pepper.[13]

By 2013, approximately one-third of the genera diversity stored in genebanks globally was represented at the Seed Vault.[14]

In October 2016, the Seed Vault experienced an unusually large degree of water intrusion due to higher than average temperatures and heavy rainfall. While it is common for some water to seep into the Seed Vault's 100 m (328 ft) entrance tunnel during the warmer spring months, in this case the water encroached 15 m (49 ft) into the tunnel before freezing.[15] The Seed Vault was designed for water intrusion and as such the seeds were not at risk.[15] As a result, however, the Norwegian public works agency Statsbygg completed improvements to the tunnel in 2019 to prevent any such intrusion in the future, including waterproofing the tunnel walls, removing heat sources from the tunnel, and digging exterior drainage ditches.[16][17]

For the Seed Vault's 10th anniversary on 26 February 2018, a shipment of 70,000 samples was delivered to the facility, bringing the number of samples received to more than one million (not counting withdrawals).[18]

According to The Independent, as of March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic does not pose a risk to the vault "as there are no permanent staff at the Svalbard facility."[19]

As of June 2021, the Seed Vault conserves 1,081,026 distinct crop samples,[20] representing more than 13,000 years of agricultural history.[21]

In 2019, the seed vault cost about 2.4 million kr (US$282,000) to maintain.[22]

^ a b "The History". Svalbard Global Seed Vault. 4 July 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2021. ^ a b "Overview | International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture". www.fao.org. Retrieved 7 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link) ^ Cite error: The named reference natgeo201107 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Fowler, C., George, W., Shands, H., Skovmand, B. (2004) Study to Assess the Feasibility of Establishing a Svalbard Arctic Seed Depository for the International Community. Prepared for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Norway). Center for International Environment and Development Studies. Agricultural University of Norway. ^ "Tenth Regular Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture" (PDF). FAO. 8–12 November 2004. Retrieved 7 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link) ^ Cite error: The named reference Mellgren2008 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Cite error: The named reference Kinver2008 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ a b Cite error: The named reference time20090227 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Cite error: The named reference HPJ2009 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ a b Cite error: The named reference Young2009 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Cite error: The named reference bbc20090226 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Cite error: The named reference norwayjp2009 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Cite error: The named reference bbc20100713 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Cite error: The named reference Westengen2013 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ a b Cite error: The named reference popsci20170522 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Cite error: The named reference statsbygg20170520 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ "Statsbygg: Svalbard Global Seed Vault". www.statsbygg.no. Retrieved 28 May 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link) ^ Smith, George (26 February 2018). "Seed Vault marks 10th anniversary with 70,000 new samples". New Food. Retrieved 22 October 2018. ^ Boyl, Louise (27 March 2020). "The 'Doomsday' seed vault protecting the world's crops amid catastrophes like coronavirus". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2021. ^ "Main Page". Svalbard Global Seed Vault. 4 July 2017. Retrieved 1 April 2021. ^ Duggan, Jennifer (April 2017). "Inside the 'Doomsday' Vault". Time. Archived from the original on 8 April 2017. ^ "Svalbard Global Seed Vault: Annual Progress Report 2019" (PDF). Nordic Genetic Resource Center. June 2020.
Photographies by:
Cierra Martin for Crop Trust - CC BY-SA 2.0
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