Built in 2008, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was established to save seeds in case of a global catastrophe. Well, the apocalypse came a little early.
The seed vault, housed in an abandoned arctic coal mine, has been tapped for the first time since its opening. The reason? Syria’s civil war, which is pushing Middle East researchers to replace some seeds previously housed at a gene bank in an area that has now been ravaged by war. Though it isn’t the end of the world, a representative for the seed vault told Reuters that “protecting the world’s biodiversity” is why the vault was created, so this request warranted the vault’s first official withdrawal.
According to The Verge, the request focuses on 130 boxes with 116,000 samples (approximately one-seventh of the total stock). The seeds will be sent to the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA), which is tasked with developing drought-resistant plants and crops. It seems this withdrawal from Svalbard is indicative of larger issues for ICARDA, as the foundation’s future could be in flux due to the instability in the region. Good thing there’s not much going on in the arctic.
The Svalbard vault houses a total of approximately 864,000 samples from every corner of the globe. That number could rise to 4.5 million seeds over the next several years, with more seeds being added all the time, in an effort to provide maximum diversity. It’s located in the “geologically stable permafrost of the Arctic,” which could keep it frozen and secure for 200 years in the event of a full-scale power loss (you know, from the apocalypse).
Here’s hoping someone remembers the password to get in there once the world actually ends.