The Doomsday Vault opens its doors this week to receive new offers from genebanks. Carved into the Arctic landscape, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – as it is more officially known – is home to the largest collection of agricultural biodiversity in the world.
It was created with the aim of securing global food sources by providing safe, free and long-term storage for seed genebanks around the world. Its icy location is crucial for this purpose, representing a relatively cold storage space (though not immune to climate change) compared to the seed banks of the southern regions from which most of its collection originates.
Gluts of fresh seeds are arriving from gene banks in Sudan, Uganda, New Zealand, Germany and Lebanon, Reuters reports, adding to the vault’s existing collection of more than 1.1 million seed samples representing approximately 6,000 plant species.
The safe only opens a handful of times a year in an effort to protect its contents from the outside world. As such, this next installment represents an exciting entry in the Doomsday Vault Diary.
Varieties expected to join the extensive seed collection in Svalbard include millet, sorghum and wheat, which will serve as back-up reserves for the original genebanks. Despite its rather Hollywood nickname, the Vault is primarily focused on maintaining plant genetic diversity to ensure the world’s future food supply.
Wheat’s latest addition to the Vault will be crucial here as it is one of the top three crops that make up over 40% of the world’s calories. The other two are corn and rice.
“Although the Seed Vault may have a role to play in the event of a global catastrophe, its value is seen to be much more related to safeguarding individual collections in the event that the original samples and their duplicates in conventional genebanks, are lost due to natural disasters, human conflicts, changes in policies, mismanagement or any other circumstance,” reads the Svalbard Global Seed Vault website.
That said, the Vault is not without applications in global disasters to provide a safe haven for Earth’s botanical species should something go wrong. The idea even inspired researchers at the University of Arizona who went further, suggesting that the Moon could be a good place to create a repository of life.
Our cool, calm Moon wouldn’t be the worst place, admittedly, with lava tubes that mimic the Svalbard vault, but this time from a distance the climate crisis can’t quite reach. But have they considered the risk of moon fall?