The world’s largest secure seed storage (almost 1 million seed samples stored in the permafrost) can be found in the permafrost close to Longyearbyen: the Global Seed Vault is not open for visitors, but one can join organized trips with guides that will take you close to the entrance. The seed vault was established so that gene banks worldwide could store duplicate samples of their seeds, and by this ensure that food crop varieties are not lost in local or global crises like war, terrorism or natural catastrophes. By storing the seeds in a location with permafrost you ensure that the seeds will stay frozen, even if a power cut should occur. In addition, Longyearbyen offers a stable political and geological location and well-established infrastructure – the seed storage is located only 1 kilometer from the local Svalbard airport. The three rock vaults in the mountain base maintains a natural low temperature of 3 – 6 degrees Celsius below zero, but the vaults are cooled down further to 18 degrees Celsius below zero by a local power plant. The freezing temperatures stops the seeds from developing, delay seed aging and makes it possible to store seeds for many years. If needed the seeds will be thawed and they will again be active. ‘Svalbard Global Seed Vault’ was opened in February 2008 by the Norwegian government: the idea of creating a big, international seed storage was not new, already in 1984 a secure seed storage for Nordic seeds was established in Mine 3. The 10-year anniversary of Svalbard Global Seed Vault was celebrated in February 2018 with the «Seed Vault Summit», with attending depositors and partners from all over the world. The vault is safely placed close to 130 meter above sea level and is constructed to withstand earth quakes up to 10 on the Richter’s scale. Each of the three halls can accommodate storage of up to 1,5 million seed samples. Gene banks worldwide send duplicates of their seeds to Svalbard. Each country or institution owns their own deposits, but if an international time of crisis should occur the seed samples can be made available to all. The seed vault stores several tens of thousands variants of important food plants such as beans, wheat and rice. In total there are more than 4000 different species in the seed vault. These seed samples are duplicates of seed samples that are stored in national, regional and international gene banks. Each sample contains approximately 500 seeds in an air-tight aluminum bag. The samples are stored in containers with a maximum capacity of 400 samples. The containers are sealed by the gene bank which deposits the samples. At the opening in 2008 the seed storage contained 278000 seed samples, for the most part rice and wheat, in 2018 the number of seed samples is close to 1 million. The Seed Portal of NordGen (Nordic Genetic Resource Centre) contains the updated statistics of all seeds that have been deposited in Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The seed vault is not an ordinary gene bank that scientists and other interested parties can contact directly for access to the seeds: the seed vault is a secure seed storage for national, regional and international seed and gene banks worldwide. The seed vault was established and fully funded by the Norwegian government and the ministry of Agriculture and Food is responsible for it: the ministry cooperates with NordGen, and Global Crop Diversity Trust when it comes to the daily management of the seed vault and receives guidance from the International Advisory Council. The Commission for genetic resources in UN’s FAO and FAO’s International treaty on Plant Genetic Resources are also important international supporters. The artwork ”Perpetual Repercussion” by Dyveke Sanne can be found on the vault’s roof and on top of the entrance: it increases the vault’s visibility from a distance both in daylight and in darkness, made possible by triangular, light reflective pieces of acid-safe steel in different sizes. The expression of the artwork will change depending on what time of day it is and which season you’re in. The artwork was funded by The Norwegian State agency overseeing art in public spaces (KORO) and was honored with the Norwegian light award for best outdoor light project in 2009.
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