Stronghold of world’s seeds narrowly escapes floodwater

Millions of seeds in ‘Doomsday’ vault safe after permafrost melts 

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The Global Seed Bank is located in Svalbard © Global Crop Diversity Trust

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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen was threatened this winter by floodwaters from melted permafrost.

Higher temperatures caused by climate change melted the permafrost and caused meltwater to flood the entrance tunnel to the vault.

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Melted permafrost waters threatened the seed bank this winter © Global Crop Diversity Trust

The vault, owned by the Norwegian government, contains nearly a million packets of seeds from important food crops, and was designed to provide “failsafe” protection against natural or manmade disasters.

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Seeds in storage at the Svalbard Global Seed Bank © Global Crop Diversity Trust

Hege Njaa Aschim, a government spokesperson, told the Guardian: “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.

“Fortunately, the melt water did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now.”

The Crop Trust issued a statement following the flooding, assuring seed depositers that “the seeds are completely safe and no damage has been done to the facility.”

The 100m tunnel will now be waterproofed, heat will be reduced in the tunnel, trenches will be built to channel meltwater away and pumps will be installed within the vault. 

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