The Svalbard Global Seed Vault threatened by global warming

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, was partially flooded by permafrost melt, said the Norwegian Government.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was created by a tripartite agreement between the Norwegian Government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust (created by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Bioversity International) and the Nordic Gene Bank. The vault aims to protect plant seeds samples – covering more than 4.5 million types of plants – from any global disaster. It also allows gene banks from all over the world to be supplied if plant seeds are needed. Buried in a mountain north of the Arctic Circle, the construction of the vault was completed in 2008.

But the vault is now threatened by global warming. Indeed, the permafrost is melting due to higher temperatures, which may damage the vault. Meltwater has already entered it. Fortunately, only the access tunnel was flooded. The water did not reach the seeds samples, which remain safe.

This scenario has never been considered, said the Norwegian government. Indeed, the melting of the permafrost seemed impossible. This shows how quickly climate is changing.

Now the question for the vault’s managers is whether this situation will maintain, or will it get worse?

The Arctic has warmed especially rapidly in recent decades. According to scientists, it is actually warming much faster than the rest of the world, and beyond a certain limit, the melting of polar ice could be irreversible.

To face this issue, it is necessary to explore all possibilities to minimize  risks and ensure the safety of the building, said the Norwegian Government. The vault was supposed to operate without human action but now requires constant supervision.


Dima Doukhi Afficher l'image d'origine – Étudiante en Master 2 GEDD à Strasbourg



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