The world’s backup supply of seeds for essential food crops such as wheat, beans and rice might be in danger.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Norway’s Spitsbergen Island is – for the first time – being threatened by flooding.
Water from melting ice and permafrost is gushing into the vault’s entrance tunnel, The Guardian reported. The vault was placed in an abandoned coal mine on an island north of Norway and expected to survive for centuries without human assistance. It was not designed to survive soaring temperatures in the Arctic.
“It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” Hege Njaa Aschim, a spokeswoman for the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture, told The Guardian. “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 vault was constructed to ensure the world’s food supply in case of global catastrophes such as nuclear wars or a worldwide famine. It was placed on Spitsbergen, one of the remotest places on Earth, for that reason.
Nearly a million packets of seeds for major food crops are stored in the vault.
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