Monday 25/03/2019 - 01:10 am

Global warming prompts Norway to strengthen its doomsday seed vault

2018.02.27 03:11

Global warming has prompted Norway to invest about $13 million to strengthen its 10-year-old doomsday seed vault, in which about a million crop varieties are stored on a remote ice-covered island.

The update at Svalbard, an archipelago near the Arctic Circle, would cover “construction of a new, concrete-built access tunnel, as well as a service building to house emergency power and refrigerating units and other electrical equipment," according to a statement from Norway’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food,

The new work comes after a thaw of permafrost in 2016 caused some water to flow into the vaults entrance. No seeds were damaged, but the Norwegian government decided the store, designed to withstand nuclear war and earthquakes, needed an upgrade in case global warming intensified.

Norway built the vault in an abandoned coal mine to ensure that plant species affected by rising global temperatures and other disasters could be preserved. For instance, the Agriculture Ministry said, in 2015 seeds were sent from Norway to Syria after the war-torn nation’s smaller seed repository near Aleppo was damaged by military action. Last year, seeds harvested from plants generated by the Norwegian supply in Syria were sent back to Svalbard.

“This demonstrates that the seed vault is a worldwide insurance for food supply for future generations,” said Jon Georg Dale, Norways minister of agriculture and food.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports, more than 70,000 crops are to be added this week to the storage chambers, which stay at a steady -18 Celsius (about 0 degrees Fahrenheit). The new stash includes unusual crops like the Estonian onion potato, as well as barley used to brew Irish beer.

According to the BBC, the vault opens about twice a year for deposits. This week’s additions also include unique varieties of rice, wheat and maize as well as black-eyed peas — a major protein source in Africa and South Asia — and the Bambara groundnut, which is being developed as a drought-tolerant crop in Africa.


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