When I first heard about the Svalbard International Seed Vault or "Doomsday" seed bank, I felt quite alarmed. Why was it being built into the side of a freezing Arctic mountain hundreds of miles from anywhere? Was some great catastrophe about to hit the earth and obliterate all forms of life? However, it seems that the frozen North might just be the ideal place to put the world’s seeds for "insurance purposes only".
According to a report in this week’s Nature, conditions in the Svalbard vault will be ideal, with normal temperatures of -6°C only needing to be further cooled to -18°C, and being set 130 metres up the mountainside it will survive even the most catastrophic of rises in sea level. The new bank has been described as a "global insurance policy" and will house duplicate copies of seeds from all around the world, in case any of of the 1,400 global crop repositories is lost in either natural or man-made disasters.
The news report Norway unveils design of ‘doomsday’ seed bank by Micheal Hopkin is published in Nature 445:693.