Doomsday Fridge To Store Seeds To Rescue Civilisation

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#1
Doomsday fridge aims to store seeds that will rescue civilisation

By John von Radowitz
A “DOOMSDAY vault” hewn out of a Norwegian mountain is planned to safeguard the world’s food crops in case of global disaster.

The huge room, on an ice-bound island just 1,000km from the North Pole, is aimed at securing the future of humanity in the event of a nuclear war or other doomsday scenario, such as an asteroid impact.

The Norwegian government plans to create the vault, designed to hold around two million seeds, next year.

All the world’s food crops will be represented, New Scientist magazine reported.

“If the worst came to the worst, this would allow the world to reconstruct agriculture on this planet,” said Cary Fowler, director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust which is promoting the project.




The €2.4 million vault will be constructed deep inside a sandstone mountain lined with permafrost on the Norwegian Arctic island of Spitsbergen.

It will have metre-thick walls of reinforced concrete, and be protected behind two airlocks and high-security blast-proof doors.

To survive, the seeds need to be frozen. The plan is to replace the air inside the vault each winter, when temperatures on Spitsbergen fall to around minus 18C.

“This will be the world’s most secure gene bank by some orders of magnitude,” said Mr Fowler. “But its seeds will only be used when all other samples have gone for some reason. It is a fail-safe depository, rather than a conventional seed bank.”

There is growing concern for the safety of existing seed banks around the world.

In the late 1980s, terrorists ransacked an international potato seed bank in the Peruvian Andes.

Fridge
EDIT: Thread title shortened by WJ
 

hokum6

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#2
Imagine being the last remnants of civilization, and finding that your only hope for growing crops is locked behind metres of concrete and blast doors on a frozen island. :)

Do they say anything about a power source?
 

OldTimeRadio

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#7
Mummy Wheat

Any estimate on how long the seeds will remain viable?

Or might future generations trying to germinate these seeds experience another unhappy episode of "mummy wheat"?

By the way, CAN all seeds be safely frozen?
 
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#8
Agriculture

Seeds of hope

Jun 22nd 2006
From The Economist print edition


An international seed bank is being set up in the Arctic

IF CATASTROPHE were to befall humanity—be it plague, nuclear war or an asteroid striking the Earth—what provision could be made for the survivors? This week work began on a project to re-establish agriculture should such a calamity occur. On a remote Arctic island, a vault is being dug to house the seeds of up to 3m different crops, as part of plans to protect food supplies across the world.

The Svalbard International Seed Vault, as the facility is called, will cost the Norwegian government, which is paying for it, about $3m. Eventually it will contain samples of every known crop variety that can be grown from seed, from the tropics to the highest latitudes.


Svalbard was chosen because it is cold and remote. The island is expected to remain frozen for the next hundred years, despite changes in the world's climate, and the vault is being carved out of the ice and rock. Seeds deposited in the bank will be preserved by the cold, certainly for hundreds and perhaps even thousands of years. The freezing conditions, not to mention polar bears, should put off any unwelcome visitors. Just in case they do not, the bank will be 70 metres (230 feet) underground, inside concrete walls more than a metre thick and behind a strong security door and a perimeter fence.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust, a charity involved in the creation of the vault, estimates that there are now some 1,400 gene banks for crops, scattered on every inhabited continent. It is developing plans to conserve every important crop on the planet. Some do not have seeds and so cannot be stored on Svalbard. Bananas, for example, are estimated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation to be the world's fourth most consumed food (after wheat, rice and maize) and form the staple diets of some 400m people in the tropics. Bananas can only be conserved as cuttings, and these must be cut back and replanted every few months. Work is under way to develop better ways of preserving such crops.

Many of the gene banks are in countries where the crop is not native, to make it more likely that the species will survive a disaster. (The banana bank is in Belgium.) The Svalbard vault fulfils this criterion for any seed you can think of. Whether anyone will be able to reach it if catastrophe strikes is another question.


http://www.economist.com/science/displa ... id=7081254
 

OldTimeRadio

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#9
[T]he bank will be 70 metres (230 feet) underground, inside concrete walls more than a metre thick and behind a strong security door and a perimeter fence.
Three very unhappy words all of a sudden occur to me: "Oak Island Treasure."
 
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'Doomsday' vault design unveiled
By Mark Kinver
Science and nature reporter, BBC News



Artist's impression of the entrance to the vault


Enlarge Image

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.


See inside the Svalbard International Seed Vault
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 secretary.

"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."


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

stu neville

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OldTimeRadio said:
[T]he bank will be 70 metres (230 feet) underground, inside concrete walls more than a metre thick and behind a strong security door and a perimeter fence.
Three very unhappy words all of a sudden occur to me: "Oak Island Treasure."
..except, people will know that the vault is actually there in the first place. Not just a proliferation of holes that might have something in one of them.
 
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Scientists Behind 'Doomsday Seed Vault' Ready The World's Crops For Climate Change
20 Sep 2008

As climate change is credited as one of the main drivers behind soaring food prices, the Global Crop Diversity Trust is undertaking a major effort to search crop collections - from Azerbaijan to Nigeria - for the traits that could arm agriculture against the impact of future changes. Traits, such as drought resistance in wheat, or salinity tolerance in potato, will become essential as crops around the world have to adapt to new climate conditions.

Climate change is having the most negative impact in the poorest regions of the world, already causing a decrease in yields of most major food crops due to droughts, floods, increasingly salty soils and higher temperatures.

Crop diversity is the raw material needed for improving and adapting food crops to harsher climate conditions and constantly evolving pests and diseases. However, it is disappearing from many of the places where it has been placed for safekeeping - the world's genebanks. Compounding the fact that it is not well conserved is the fact that it is not well understood. A lack of readily available and accurate data on key traits can severely hinder plant breeders' efforts to identify material they can use to breed new varieties best suited for the climates most countries will experience in the coming decades. The support provided by the Global Crop Diversity Trust will not only rescue collections which are at risk, but enable breeders and others to screen collections for important characteristics.

"Our crops must produce more food, on the same amount of land, with less water, and more expensive energy," said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. "This, on top of climate change, poses an unprecedented challenge to farming. There is no possible scenario in which we can continue to grow the food we require without crop diversity. Through our grants we seek, as a matter of urgency, to rescue threatened crop collections and better understand and conserve crop diversity."

Through a competitive grants scheme, the Trust will provide funding for projects that screen developing country collections - including wheat, chickpea, rice, barley, lentils, coconut, banana, maize, and sweet potato - for traits that will be essential for breeding climate-ready varieties. These projects involve 21 agricultural research institutions in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Israel, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Syria.

Scientists will be screening chickpea and wheat collections in Pakistan for traits of economic importance for farmers; characterizing rare coconuts in Sri Lanka for traits of drought tolerance and tolerance to other pests and diseases; screening for salinity tolerance in sweet potatoes in Peru; and identifying drought-tolerant bananas in India.

Much of the screening will take place within collections where many of the unique samples are at risk. Therefore, in addition to its efforts to bolster the development of climate-ready crops, the Trust will provide funding to save unique crop collections that are at risk of disappearing. Crop collections need to be re-grown at regular intervals, and fresh seed harvested and placed in seedbanks to ensure long-term conservation and availability. The Trust is working with more than 60 countries to "regenerate" unique collections of crops critical for food security, and to ensure that they are duplicated elsewhere for safety in a collection that meets international standards, as well as in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Worldwide, there are a handful of crop collections that can be said to meet international standards. And even these few, despite their role in protecting the foundation of our food supply, lurch from one funding arrangement to the next without ever having any real long-term security. The Trust is now endowing these, the world's most important collections, ensuring their conservation and availability for the future of agriculture. Crops already being safeguarded by the Trust's pledge of financial security include banana, barley, bean, cassava, faba bean, forages, grass pea, lentil, pearl millet, rice, sorghum, taro, wheat and yam. These are housed in collections managed in trust for humanity at eight agricultural institutions that are supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and by the Secretariat for the Pacific Community.

"Secure funding on this sort of time-scale has been unheard of in this field. Crop collections are all too often amassed and then lost according to changing funding fashions and priorities," said Daniel Debouck, Head of the Genetic Resources Unit at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), one of the agricultural institutions supported by the CGIAR. "Genebanking is not something you can turn on and off, and a shortfall in funding of just a few months can result in the permanent loss of unique varieties. We need to be sure that we will have sufficient funding year after year after year. The Trust is now providing that security."

"The contents of our genebanks - some 1.5 million distinct samples - are the result of a 13,000-year experiment in the interaction between crops and environment, climate and culture," said Fowler. "If we are wise enough to conserve these collections, we will have a treasure chest of the very traits that crops used in the past when they successfully adapted to new conditions - the traits they will need again in the future to adapt as climates and environments change."

----------------------------
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.
----------------------------

The Global Crop Diversity Trust (http://www.croptrust.org/)

The mission of the Trust is to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. Although crop diversity is fundamental to fighting hunger and to the very future of agriculture, funding is unreliable and diversity is being lost. The Trust is the only organization working worldwide to solve this problem, and has already raised over $140 million. For further information, please visit: http://www.croptrust.org/.

Source: Jeff Haskins
Global Diversity Crop Trust
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Article URL: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/121966.php
 
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#14
Global Seed Vault Now Accepting Seeds
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=global-seed-vault

A secure place to store copies of crops and other plants in case of global calamity
By Melinda Wenner


With global warming looming, Mother Nature could sure use a backup plan—a secure place to store copies of her crops and other plants. Now, thanks to the government of Norway, she has one. Dug into a permafrost mountain, the massive Svalbard Global Seed Vault began collecting seeds in February. So far it has 268,000 unique samples, with a capacity for 4.3 million more.

Although about 1,400 seed banks exist worldwide, this one, in Norway’s Svalbard islands, dwarfs them all and aims to safeguard duplicates of the seeds. Stored seeds are frequently lost because of natural disasters, war and warm temperatures, so Svalbard was built to withstand these challenges. The facility is remote, located 1,000 kilometers beyond mainland Norway’s northernmost tip. It can be accessed only via a 93-meter tunnel through the permafrost. And it is “the best-insulated freezer in the world,” says Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust: if the cooling units fail, the permafrost will keep the vault below –3.5 degrees Celsius. Norway built Svalbard for $9 million and maintains it, and the trust oversees its collection, but institutions that deposit seeds can remove them anytime.

Svalbard wasn’t built because the end is nigh but to enhance the earth’s sustainability. “We’re scientists,” says Fowler, an American. “We’ve really just had it up to here with losing crop diversity.”
 
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Doomsday seed vault's stores are growing
http://www.spacedaily.com/2006/09021608 ... 7p7ou.html

The stores of seeds in a "doomsday" vault in the Norwegian Arctic are growing as researchers rush to preserve 100,000 crop varieties from potential extinction.
The imperiled seeds are going to be critical for protecting the global food supply against devastating crop losses as a result of climate change, said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

"These resources stand between us and catastrophic starvation," Fowler said. "You can't imagine a solution to climate change without crop diversity."

That's because the crops currently being used by farmers will not be able to evolve quickly enough on their own to adjust to predicted drought, rising temperatures and new pests and diseases, he said.

One recent study found that corn yields in Africa will fall by 30 percent by 2030 unless heat-resistant varieties are developed, Fowler noted.

"Evolution is in our control," he said in an interview. "It's in our seed bank. You take traits form different varieties and make new ones."

That process currently takes about 10 years. But Fowler said his organization is hoping to speed up the development of new varieties by cataloguing the genetic traits of the seeds that it stores.

Their gene bank -- dug into a mountainside near Longyearbyen, in the Svalbard islands in the far north of Norway -- will be made public to help spur research, which Fowler says is woefully inadequate.

"Six people in the world are breeding bananas. Ditto for yams, a major crop in Africa," Fowler said ahead of a presentation Sunday to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Fowler said the Global Crop Diversity Trust has agreements with 49 institutes in 46 countries to rescue some 53,000 of the 100,000 crop samples identified as endangered.

Agreements for preserving the remaining varieties are expected to be completed soon.

They include rare varieties of barley, wheat, rice, banana, plantain, potato, cassava, chickpea, maize, lentil, bean, sorghum, millet, coconut, breadfruit, cowpea and yam.

The varieties most at risk are being stored in poorly funded seed banks in Africa and Asia where varieties are being lost due to inadequate refrigeration and the destruction of the facilities as a result of civil strife and natural disasters.

Researchers do not know how many varieties of crops have already been lost. But the industrialization of farming has had a major impact on crop diversity.

In 1903, US farmers planted 578 varieties of beans. By 1983 just 32 varieties remained in seedbanks.

"When you lose one of these samples you're losing something you can't find in a farmer's field," Fowler said.

"We can't afford to lose this diversity when it's so easy and cheap to conserve it."
 
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#16
Svalbard seed vault to take Peruvian potato samples
By Mark Kinver Science and environment reporter, BBC News
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12493970

Samples of Peruvian potatoes (Image: Asociacion ANDES/GCDT) Farmers feared that some potato varieties could have been lost forever if they were not protected

Related Stories

* 'Red hot' arrivals at seed vault
* Doomsday vault begins deep freeze
* 'Doomsday' vault design unveiled

Farmers in Peru are sending 1,500 varieties of potatoes to a "doomsday vault" in the Arctic Circle in order to safeguard the tubers' future.

Potatoes are regarded as the world's most important non-cereal crop, and have been eaten for about 8,000 years.

But native species from the highlands of South America appear to be at risk.

The samples will be stored in a vault inside a mountain, which aims to protect the world's food crop species against natural and human disasters.

"Peruvian potato culture is under threat," said Alejandro Argumedo, a plant scientist involved in the project. "The work we begin today will guarantee the availability of our incredible potato diversity for future generations."

The samples being sent to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are being provided by the Cusco Potato Park, which covers more than 10,000 hectares and was set up by six indigenous communities in order to protect biodiversity and protect food security in the region.

The Andes are homes to more than 4,000 varieties of native potato, and the park's collection has attracted plant breeders from all over the world, searching for traits such as disease resistance, flavour or nutritional attributes.
Diagram of the interior of the seed vault (Image: BBC)

However, the park faces an uncertain future because changes to the area's climate could undermine the farmers' weather-dependent agricultural systems.

"Climate change will mean that traditional methods of maintaining this collection can no longer provide absolute guarantees," explained Lino Mamani, head of the "potato guardians" collective.
Entrance to the Svalbard seed vault (Image: Mari Tefre/Global Crop Diversity Trust) The remote, frozen landscape provides the ideal natural conditions for the vault's task

"Sending seeds to the [vault] will help us to provide a valuable back-up collection - the vault was built for the global community and we are going to use it."

One of the varieties that will be stored in Svalbard is known as the "bride's potato".

Its unusual name, it is said, dates back to Incan times, when a bride was expected to peel this potato in order to display that she had the necessary skills to be a good wife.

The Svalbard seed vault, which opened in February 2008, was designed to store duplicates of all seed samples from the world's crop collections.

Permafrost and thick rock surrounding the vault, built 130 metres inside a mountain, ensure that the samples will remain frozen even in the case of power failure.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust, which operates the facility, describes it as the "ultimate insurance policy for the world's food supply".

Cary Fowler, the Trust's executive director, said: "The Potato Park highlights the active role that individual communities play in creating and conserving diversity.

"This partnership demonstrates the critical importance of the seed vault in backing up conservation efforts of all kinds."
 
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#17
Key food crops head to Arctic 'doomsday vault'
By Mark Kinver
Environment reporter, BBC News
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-26338709

Seed vault entrance (Image: Global Crop Diversity Trust)

The vault's remote location in the Arctic Circle means there is very little need for human intervention

More than 20,000 crops from more than 100 nations have arrived at a "Doomsday vault" in the Arctic Circle.

The latest delivery coincides with the sixth anniversary of the frozen depository in Svalbard, which now houses more than 800,000 samples.

The shipment includes the first offering from Japan, where collections were threatened by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The facility is designed to withstand all natural and human disasters.

Deep inside a mountain on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago - located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole - the vault, which cost £5m (US $7m) and took 12 months to build, offers permanent protection for the world's food crops, say its operators.

The purpose of the depository, owned by the Norwegian government and maintained by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) and the Nordic Genetic Resources Center, is to store duplicates of all seed samples from crop collections around the world.

Graphic showing a cross-section of the vault (Image: GCDT)
The GCDT says permafrost and thick rock ensure that, even in the case of a power cut, the seed samples will remain frozen.

"The vault can therefore be considered the ultimate insurance policy for the world's food supply," it adds.

"It will secure, for centuries, millions of seeds representing every important crop variety available in the world today."

The Japanese barley samples were provided by the Barley Germplasm Center at Okayama University.

Researcher holding bean sample destined for the seed vault (Image: GCDT)
National seed collections around the whole have provided the samples being stored in the vault
Prof Kazuhiro Sato from the university's Institute of Plant Science and Resources said experts became concerned about the long-term safety of the national collection following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused widespread devastation.

"If something bad happened to our genebank, these resources could be damaged permanently," he said.

"Barley is very important not just for Japan but for the food security of the world - we have varieties that are productive even in dry conditions and in saline soil."

Speaking ahead of a meeting at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, GCDT executive director Marie Haga said: "Our annual gatherings at the seed vault are a sort of Winter Olympics of crop diversity, only we are not competing against each other but against the wide array of threats - natural and man-made - ranged against the diversity of food crops, diversity that is so crucial to the future of human civilisation."

She added: "We are particularly excited to be welcoming our first seed deposits from Japan, which has been very active globally in the preservation of a wide array of crop species."
 
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#18
The doomsday vault: the seeds that could save a post-apocalyptic world

Set in an Arctic mountainside, the Svalbard seed bank contains the world’s most prized crops. But a row has erupted over whether this is the best hope of feeding the world after a catastrophe or just an overpriced deep freeze

One Tuesday last winter, in the town nearest to the North Pole, Robert Bjerke turned up for work at his regular hour and looked at the computer monitor on his desk to discover, or so it seemed for a few horrible moments, that the future of human civilisation was in jeopardy.

The morning of 16 December 2014 was relatively mild for winter in Svalbard: -7.6C with moderate winds. The archipelago, which lies in the Arctic ocean, is under Norway’s control, but it is nearly twice as far from Oslo as it is from the North Pole. ...

Statsbygg’s green industrial-style building sits on a hill overlooking the town and the inky blue waters of a fjord. It is a stunning view, but that day, the monitor commanded Bjerke’s attention. In the most important property under his care – the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – the temperature reading was off. The vault was too warm. ...

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/may/20/the-doomsday-vault-seeds-save-post-apocalyptic-world
 
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The headline is a bit of an exaggeration but it doesn't auger well for the longtime survival of the vault.

The Arctic Doomsday Seed Vault Flooded. Thanks, Global Warming

It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.

“A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” she told the Guardian. Fortunately, the meltwater did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now at the required storage temperature of -18°C.

But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes. “It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said. “We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.” ...

https://www.wired.com/2017/05/arcti...ed-thanks-global-warming/?mbid=social_twitter
 
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