Home » News » News Roundup » New Roundup » World News » ‘Doomsday’ seed vault flooded by climate change ice melt

‘Doomsday’ seed vault flooded by climate change ice melt

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Norway on Saturday said it would boost protection of a seed storage vault designed to protect the world’s crops from disaster, after soaring temperatures caused water to leak into its entrance.

Situated deep inside a mountain on a remote Arctic island in a Norwegian archipelago, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, dubbed the “doomsday” vault, is the largest of its kind and can store up to 2.5 billion seeds.

Freezing temperatures inside the vault keep the seeds, sealed in packages and stored on shelves, usable for a long period of time. Permafrost and thick rock should guarantee the seeds are frozen and secured for centuries.

But in October 2016, the warmest year on record, melting permafrost caused water to leak about 15 meters (49 feet) into the entrance of a 100-meter tunnel inside the vault.

No damage was caused to the seeds and they remain safe inside the vault at the required storage temperature of -18 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).

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.

“It’s not good to have unnecessary heat inside” if water is coming in and permafrost is melting, Hege Njaa Aschim said.

“We have to listen to climate experts (and) we are prepared to do anything to protect the seed vault,” she added.

The vault currently stores more than 880,000 seed samples from nearly every country in the world, including food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea, and sorghum from Africa and Asia.

It also protects European and South American varieties of aubergine, lettuce, barley, and potatoes.

“The water that leaked in had turned into ice… we had it removed,” Aschim said. Norwegian authorities are “taking this very seriously” and “following it continuously,” she added. (AFP)

comments