'Doomsday' seed vault meant to survive global disasters breached by climate change

by Fredrick Graves May 25, 2017, 1:14
'Doomsday' seed vault meant to survive global disasters breached by climate change

No matter what happens with the looming threat of global warming, Aschim reiterated the importance of the seed vault and the service it provides in protecting the world's unique crop genetic materials.

(CNN) - Unseasonably warm temperatures last fall caused water to breach the entrance to the Arctic's so-called "Doomsday" seed vault, one of humanity's last hopes after a global catastrophe, the company that manages the vault said last week.

Luckily for those designers - and the world - the water didn't get into the actual vault, leaving the almost one million seeds safe and dry. The site is described as "a fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time - and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters".

Last year was the world's hottest ever recorded year, and soaring temperatures in the Arctic led to melting and heavy rain when it was supposed to be snowing. The building's entrance tunnel was flooded and then froze to create conditions "like a glacier" for those trying to enter.

Once inside, the water froze into ice as temperatures cooled again, before any water could penetrate the vault itself.

Still, the vault is supposed to be able to survive without any human intervention. On the other hand, they are now watching the seed vault 24 hours a day.

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An underlying problem was that permafrost around the entrance of the vault, which had thawed from the heat of construction a decade ago, has not re-frozen as predicted by scientists, Aschim said.

But the vault's managers are now constructing a waterproof wall inside for additional protection, a Norwegian government spokeswoman told AFP, adding all heat sources would also be removed from inside the vault. Workers are also digging channels to divert water away from the vault. That way if local seed banks should be breached and local samples are ruined, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault can replenish their stocks.

Haga said the trust had so far raised just over $200 million towards an $850 million endowment fund to help safeguard seeds in collections around the globe.

However, Mail Online reported that the flooding hasn't harmed the seeds but experts are anxious about the breach and how climate change will affect's the vault's long-term survival. The ice had to be chipped and cut out, though fortunately the water wasn't able to affect the seeds themselves. But "we will not take any chances", Aschim said. It's the ultimate failsafe if the world's farms burn or diseases decimate our staples and we have to start over.

When they chose to build the seed vault on Svalbard, the site was chosen for its accessible location, geological stability, low humidity levels and its perch well above sea level.


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