Are you prepared for the end of the world? The Svalbard Seed Vault has been preparing! It is the agricultural Noah’s Ark where scientists have gathered together over one million seeds from all over the globe.
National Geographic claims that the vault has just accepted 20,000 new types of agricultural varieties, bringing the total to 820,619. There are two reasons for this vault being established. Firstly, scientists want to preserve rare species that are becoming extinct due to climate change and human encroaching. Secondly, they want to ensure that in case of a global agricultural-destroying event, species will be kept safe in order to re-plant the world.
What, you may ask, are some of the more important agricultural species? Well, for one, over 600 types of barley (many used in the beer making industry) have been kept safe and sound! Japanese researchers added their own samples after the 2011 tsunami, including one sample that grew aboard the ISS (International Space Station) and is considered a special limited edition ‘space beer’.
Other agricultural giants are the 514 beans, issued by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation; 200 species of wild potatoes, many of which are under threat from climate change; as well as wheat, maize and other starches. All seeds will be stored inside thick envelopes and will be stockpiled in the vault which is kept at zero degrees.
The best part about this story is the International Seed Treaty. Yes, thats right! Since there are so many people, organisations and countries involved in this endeavour, a treaty needed to be created to ensure that no one tried to access anyone else’s seeds. It runs similarly to a bank. Each party can only access their own seed account!
Why choose Svalbard as the location? Svalbard is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, making up the northernmost part of Norway. Located north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. This means that it is cold for many parts of the year thus taking less energy to keep the seeds at the required temperature. Svalbard is also politically stable and in a very remote part of the world. It is practically unaffected by human contact and so is relatively safe. There is also an international treaty forbidding military activity there. So overall, its cold, safe and boring! What more could a seed-protecting bank want?
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