Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Did you know, that of the 1,700 seed banks worldwide, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the largest?Funded entirely by the Norwegian government, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was designed to be the ultimate seed vault.  This massive seed vault is capable of preserving billions of seeds in the event of catastrophe or natural disaster.

It’s in the Bank! Or… the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Gene banks throughout the world routinely send duplicates of their seeds in case their own stock is lost or destroyed. But what makes the vault at Svalbard safer than its counterparts?

It is built into the mountains of Spitsbergen, an island located some 1,300 kilometers (800+ miles) from the North Pole. This location is geologically stable from earthquakes and is high enough above sea level that if the ice caps melted it would still be accessible.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault entrance
Entrance to Svalbard Global Seed Vault By Martyn Smith from London, England (Global Seed Vault) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The vaults are also 130 meters deep inside the mountain, where natural permafrost coats the interior with ice.

The cooling system normally keeps the samples at -18° C.  Even if fails, the permafrost would maintain the temperature at a steady -4° C. This is cold enough to keep the seeds preserved for decades, naturally!

The three identical vault rooms at Svalbard Global Seed Vault are capable of housing 3.5 million varieties of plants.

With an average of 500 seeds per variety of plants, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is sanctuary to a total of 2.5 billion seeds! The deposit process functions much like a bank where only the depositor (in this case other gene banks), can make withdrawals and open their boxes of seeds.

In fact, in 2015, Syria became the first country to make a withdrawal after one of their gene banks was destroyed as a result of war.

Since we don’t know what the future may hold, a seed vault such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault could prove crucial for the continued survival of humanity.

Let’s hope it never comes to this.  But, who knows? Maybe one day it will save us as a species!

Do you want an inside look at the vault?  Watch this short video!