'Doomsday' vault design unveiled
2007 02 10

By Mark Kinver | news.bbc.co.uk


The final design for a "doomsday" vault that will house seeds from all known varieties of food crops has been unveiled by the Norwegian government.

The Svalbard International Seed Vault will be built into a mountainside on a remote island near the North Pole.

The vault aims to safeguard the world's agriculture from future catastrophes, such as nuclear war, asteroid strikes and climate change.

Construction begins in March, and the seed bank is scheduled to open in 2008.

The Norwegian government is paying the $5m (£2.5m) construction costs of the vault, which will have enough space to house three million seed samples.

The collection and maintenance of the collection is being organised by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which has responsibility of ensuring the "conservation of crop diversity in perpetuity".

"We want a safety net because we do not want to take too many chances with crop biodiversity," said Cary Fowler, the Trust's executive director.

"Can you imagine an effective, efficient, sustainable response to climate change, water shortages, food security issues without what is going to go in the vault - it is the raw material of agriculture."

Future proof
The seed vault will be built 120m (364ft) inside a mountain on Spitsbergen, one of four islands that make up Svalbard.

Dr Fowler said Svalbard, 1,000km (621 miles) north of mainland Norway, was chosen as the location for the vault because it was very remote and it also offered the level of stability required for the long-term project.

"We looked very far into the future. We looked at radiation levels inside the mountain, and we looked at the area's geological structure," he told BBC News.

"We also modelled climate change in a drastic form 200 years into future, which included the melting of ice sheets at the North and South Poles, and Greenland, to make sure that this site was above the resulting water level."

By building the vault deep inside the mountain, the surrounding permafrost would continue to provide natural refrigeration if the mechanical system failed, explained Dr Fowler.

'Living Fort Knox'
The Arctic vault will act as a back-up store for a global network of seed banks financially supported by the trust.

Dr Fowler said that a proportion of the seeds housed at these banks would be deposited at Svalbard, which will act as a "living Fort Knox".

Although the vault was designed to protect the specimens from catastrophic events, he added that it could also be used to replenish national seed banks.

"One example happened in September when a typhoon ripped through the Philippines and destroyed its seed bank," Dr Fowler recalled.

"The storm brought two feet of water and mud into the bank, and that is the last thing you want in a seed bank."

Low maintenance
Once inside the vault, the samples will be stored at -18C (0F). The length of time that seeds kept in a frozen state maintain their ability to germinate depends on the species.

The Arctic conditions will help keep the seeds in a frozen state
Some crops, such as peas, may only survive for 20-30 years. Others, such as sunflowers and grain crops, are understood to last for many decades or even hundreds of years.

Once the collection has been established at Svalbard, Dr Fowler said the facility would operate with very little human intervention.

"Somebody will go up there once every year to physically check inside to see that everything is OK, but there will be no full-time staff," he explained.

"If you design a facility to be used in worst-case scenarios, then you cannot actually have too much dependency on human beings."


Article from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6335899.stm



Related Articles
'Doomsday vault' to house world's seeds
Monsanto Buys ‘Terminator’ Seeds Company
GM food must be allowed into Europe, WTO rules
Seeds of Deception


Latest News from our Front Page

Norway Joins the Race to Develop Killer Robots
2014 10 24
Norway is a large exporter of weapons, which makes the resolution of the debate about creating killer robots an important issue for everyone.  One could debate the overall merits or failings of robotic systems, but an area that clearly has become a point for concern on all sides is the emergence of "killer robots." According to robotics pioneer, David Hanson, ...
Gene That Once Aided Survival in the Arctic Found to Have Negative Impact on Health Today
2014 10 23
In individuals living in the Arctic, researchers have discovered a gene variant that arose thousands of years ago and most likely provided an evolutionary advantage for processing high-fat diets or for surviving in a cold environment; however, the variant also seems to increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and infant mortality in today’s northern populations. {snip} “Our work ...
The Ebola hoax: questions, answers, and the false belief in the “One It”
2014 10 23
“The Reality Manufacturing Company doesn’t just sell ‘fake paintings’ that are easy to spot. No. They also sell images that are geared to mesh with people’s deeply held instincts and thereby produce rigid false beliefs. People are sure that if they gave up such beliefs, their world would fall apart and blow away in the wind.” ...
New Controversial Theory Suggests "Hobbits" Were Not Human - Who Were These Mysterious Beings?
2014 10 23
The origin of the Hobbit species remains a challenging subject to scientists. The Hobbit’s discovery confirmed the view that the Earth was once populated by many species of human, but new research the Hobbit’s were not human at all! So, who were these mysterious beings? Where did they come from? The idea that our species, Homo sapiens, was the only species of human on ...
Right into enemy hands? ISIS shows off new weapons allegedly airdropped by US (VIDEO)
2014 10 23
Islamic State has published a new video in which a jihadist shows off brand-new American hardware, which was purportedly intended for the Kurds they are fighting in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The undated video, posted by the unofficial IS mouthpiece “a3maq news”, sees a jihadist showing several boxes of munitions with English-language markings, with a parachute spread out on ...
More News »