In Norway there is a place where hundreds of thousands of seeds are being safeguarded in case of disaster. But agricultural biodiversity is already in danger because of climate change.
It was renamed the Doomsday Seed Vault, a safe where seeds are kept for Judgment Day. However, the people who wanted it and who are looking after it, disagree with this definition. Created in 2008, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault
, as it is officially known, aims to preserve the greatest possible variety of seed from every part of the Earth, and to preserve agricultural biodiversity.
The deposit is located on the island of Spitsbergenin, the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, about 1,000 kilometers north of mainland Norway to which it belongs politically. Its structure, comprising three rooms that can accommodate up to 1.5 million samples each, is managed by the government in Oslo together with the Global Crop Diversity Trust
, a foundation dedicated to increasing food security in the world.
Cary Fowler, former executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, had said in an interview at the Atlantic in February 2012
, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary since its inauguration, that "the deposit will be used probably sooner than you might think" without leading to a global catastrophe. "We're already losing biodiversity," today and the main cause is climate change. Despite this, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is designed to withstand a millennium and the occurrence of natural or manmade disasters; from the fall of asteroids to a nuclear war.
The latest dispatch to the deposit was made in February 2014, on the occasion of its sixth anniversary since its inauguration. 20,000 varieties of seeds from Japan, Brazil, Peru, Mexico and the United States were transported to the nearest village, Longyearbyen, with its population of just over 2,000 people, before being officially checked in.
The seeds are pigeonholed in deposits of rock 120 feet deep and are stored in a dry environment, at an average temperature of -18 ° C. The geographical area is remote and is stable from a geological point of view. Permafrost, the permanently frozen soil that is typical of the polar regions, acts as a natural refrigerant, helping the store to maintain a strict and constant temperature, which is essential for preserving the seeds.
The need to create such a place is due to several problems that are threatening the agricultural biodiversity of the planet at a time when there is need to increase crop yields when faced by a limited area used for cultivation. It is estimated that from today’s 7 billion or more people living on Earth today, population will grow to 9 billion by 2050.
The main threats to agricultural biodiversity are water scarcity, loss of habitat and climate change. And the only move to counter all this is precisely to safeguard this wealth, given that our only resource is to have more solutions for finding the best form of adaptation in a continuously changing environment. And in any case, something quite surprising has already occurred. Out of almost a million samples kept in storage, in Noah's Ark of plant species, nothing has been lost.