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Defences of 'doomsday' seed vault tightened after breach
25 May 2017, 01:14 | Kristen Gross
Arctic stronghold of world's seeds flooded after permafrost melts
(CNN) - Unseasonably warm temperatures last fall caused water to breach the entrance to the Arctic's so-called "Doomsday" seed vault, one of humanity's last hopes after a global catastrophe, the company that manages the vault said last week.
An ice covered entrance door to the worldwide gene bank Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV) near Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen, Norway, October 20, 2015.
The vault now holds 930,000 seed samples from all over the world but can store up to 4.5 million seed samples for hundreds of years. Yes, there had been "season-dependent intrusion of water" into the outer part of the seed vault, but the group was now taking precautionary measures to make improvements to the outer tunnel to prevent future occurrences.
But the vault's managers are now constructing a waterproof wall inside for additional protection, a Norwegian government spokeswoman toldAFP, adding all heat sources would also be removed from inside the vault.
"Some journalists call this the 'Noah's Ark of plant diversity.' And personally, I think that's quite a good name", Svalbard Global Seed Vault coordinator Åsmund Asdal said to Motherboard. But with climate change seemingly only accelerating, it isn't yet known whether more might need to be done.
Earlier this year, the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard was flooded after record high temperatures over the winter caused some of the permafrost surrounding the vault to melt, reports The Guardian. Fortunately, the meltwater did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now at the required storage temperature of -18C. Just like agriculture seeds, scientists recently opened a second vault to save the world's book collections, which will be stored in digital format.
Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, unlocked the vault at a ceremony and, together with the African Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist Wangari Maathai, who placed the first seeds in the vault.
Hege Njaa Aschim, an official of the Norwegian government, said: "A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in".
The seed vault, also referred to as the "doomsday" vault, is built 400 feet into a mountain slope in Spitsbergen island. They're digging drainage tunnels, removing some excess electrical equipment, and installed pumps just in case. It is a big responsibility and we take it very seriously. If anything dramatic should happen elsewhere around the world, we want these seeds to be there.
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