Flooding Is Already Threatening Humanity's Apocalypse Seed Vault

Flooding Is Already Threatening Humanity's Apocalypse Seed Vault

Pablo Tucker
May 20, 2017

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.

No seeds were damaged when water melted and penetrated the entrance of the facility, which is partly managed by the Norwegian government and is located on Spitsbergen, an island in the Arctic Circle.

Opened in 2008, the facility on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen now protects over 1 million seed packets containing around 4000 of the world's most important crop species from any possible threats to our managed ecosystems, from asteroid strike to war.

But the Global Seed Vault has reportedly been breached after soaring temperatures saw the deep permafrost created to provide "failsafe" protection disappear.

Water flooded into the entrance tunnel to the vault after the unusual season, the Guardian reported Friday (May 19).Thankfully, the water froze before it reached the seed storage areas (to preserve their viability, seeds are stored at -18 Celsius, or just below 0 degrees Fahrenheit). The plan seemed foolproof, but that's not the case: the Global Seed Vault recently suffered a failure that directly resulted from rising temperatures.

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

"We must see what we can do to minimize all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself", said Aschim. "The climate is changing dramatically and we are all amazed at how quickly it is going", Isaksen told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.

[Photo: Arterra/UIG/Getty Images] In an ironic twist, the Arctic is affected by the warming climate more drastically than the rest of the world.

The vault managers are now waterproofing the facility and digging trenches to channel melt and rainwater away, according to The Guardian.

As for the vault, future water intrusions can now be seen as a possibility which need to be avoided.

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

The idea underpinning the venture is that in the vault, there are back-up copies of seed varieties from around the world - a safety duplicate of the ones held in smaller national or regional seed banks, which are more vulnerable to natural disaster, conflict, or in some cases simply mismanagement.

The seeds were protected from the water, but the incident alarmed some officials who thought the layers of permafrost, which is made up of Ice Age-era soil, bone fragments and water, would never melt.

"We have to find solutions", added Aschim. "We are doing this for the world".

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