In the rugged Svalbard archipelago, belonging Norway, lies the Spitsbergen island. It is here that the Global Crop Diversity Trust decided to build the Global Seed Vault. Although commonly referred to as the “Doomsday Vault,” Cary Fowler of the GCDT insists that it is currently in use and is not intended as a doomsday reserve.
The “back up” seeds in the super high-tech vault are critical to global agriculture because conditions are constantly changing and each crop variety has different adaptations or resistance levels to certain conditions like diseases, pests, and temperature change. The varieties housed in the vault can also be bred to combine desirable traits to help negate future effects of climate change.
Although one of the most remote locations on Earth, Spitsbergen is an ideal location for the vault because of its arctic climate. The permafrost ensures that specimens in the underground store will remain frozen, and therefore viable, even if a power outage were to occur.
As of today, seeds from over 4,000 plant species from 228 countries are tucked away in Svalbard for a rainy day. Hopefully, we won’t need the seeds to recover from doomsday, but the stores will prove valuable in the upcoming decades while we work to feed our fast-growing population.