Safe storage for seeds of the world

Plant species from the Nordic Region, and all over the rest of the world, are now safely ensconced in the bowels of the earth under the Norwegian mountains. The new storage facility on the Svalbard Islands, with the capacity to store millions of seed samples, was inaugurated 26 Feburary. Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen) is responsible for the day-to-day operations.
 Safe storage for seeds of the world
Biological diversity is under ever-increasing threat, especially from climate change. Natural disasters represent a real threat to global plant-genetic resources and the Svalbard facility is designed to guarantee that droughts, floods, etc. are not allowed to wipe out important species.

Dubbed the ‘Doom‘s Day Store‘ by the media, it is capable of storing up to 4.5 million seed samples. This means, in effect, that seeds from more or less all the world‘s vegetables, fruits and other crops can be stored in the Norwegian permafrost. At the time of the inauguration more than 250,000 seeds were already in situ, almost 13,000 of them indigenous Nordic species.

The Svalbard facility consists of three large halls more than a hundred metres under the mountains. It was built by, and is owned by, Norway. The Nordic Council of Ministers plays a key role in the project.

Seed banks from all over the world will be able to send samples to Svalbard. Mexico has already sent almost 50,000 different types of wheat to Svalbard, for example, while Colombia has sent tens of thousands of bean seeds. American, African and European seed banks have also availed themselves of the opportunity to back up their plant-genetic resources at the site. NordGen also runs a public database containing information about all the seeds stored on Svalbard.

The location of the facility is perfect for storage purposes. The permafrost and the location deep in the mountain guarantees that all the seeds will be kept frozen, even in the event of a power failure.

NordGen also runs the Nordic Gene Bank, with stores in Alnarp (Sweden) and Årslev (Denmark). NordGen was launched at the turn of the year after the merger of the Nordic Gene Bank Farm Animals (NGH), the Nordic Gene Bank (NGB) and the Nordic Council for Forest Reproductive Material (NSFP).