Global warning threatens 'Doomsday Vault'

Global warning threatens 'Doomsday Vault'

There are fears the Arctic "Doomsday Vault" may not be exempt from the threats of climate change, after 2016's record global temperatures saw meltwater flood the gene bank's entrance.

Last year was the hottest on record globally, with warmer winter temperatures in the Artic causing rainfalls and melting, the Guardian reported.

The Global Seed Vault, located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, holds millions of seed samples of some of the world's most vital food sources.

Created in 2008, it serves as an insurance policy for humans' survival — safeguarding against wars or natural disasters wiping out global food crops.

The seeds require temperatures below -18 degrees Celsius.

In February, Spitsbergen recorded winter temperatures as high as 6.8C.

While none of the seeds were damaged, the weather event highlighted the vulnerabilities of the seed bank.

The Norwegian Government admitted warming temperatures around the vault had not been properly considered.

"It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that," Njaa Aschim from the country's Public Construction and Property agency 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 recent flooding highlighted the potential threat global warning could have on the vault and it samples.

"It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day," Ms Aschim said.

"We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself."

Since the vault opened, 940,000 seed varieties have been deposited, among them wheat, barley, potatoes and almost 150,000 varieties of rice.

The idea underpinning the venture is that in the vault, there are back-up copies of seed varieties from around the world — a safety duplicate of the ones held in smaller national or regional seed banks, which are more vulnerable to natural disaster, conflict, or in some cases simply mismanagement.

The vault scientists say preserving the world's seeds is key to ensuring crop diversity and food security in the face of climatic and political instability.

Almost every country in the world is represented in the vault.

In the back corner of the freezing storage room, there is a little piece of Australia — a stack of bright blue boxes containing 11,000 seeds, the majority of them deposited in 2014 by the Australian Grains Genebank and the Australian Pastures Genebank.