After reports of water intrusion in the tunnel leading to what is supposed to be a doomsday seed vault, Norwegian authorities are now working their way to fixing the problem. The efforts are to ensure that the world's final backup seed vault is kept safe and impenetrable.
Water Intrusion In Svalbard
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was made to be the world's backup plan where scientists and nations can store their seeds and deposit them when needed. However, what was supposed to be an impenetrable vault that can stand the test of time experienced an unexpected flooding incident.
On its website, the seed vault is described as "well above sea-level," hence is protected from flooding. However, the very thing that's supposed to preserve the seeds — permafrost — seems to have caused the flooding problems. Because of recent heat waves that brought Arctic temperatures up to 7 degrees Celsius above normal, the permafrost melted and entered the vault's tunnel.
"The tunnel was never meant to be water tight at the front, because we didn't think we would need that. What happens is, in the summer the permafrost melts, and some water comes in, and when it comes in, it freezes. It doesn't typically go very far," said Cary Fowler, one of the creators of the seed vault.
Though the water intrusion incident was quickly controlled and the seeds were kept safe at -18 degrees Celsius, the Norwegian government is making serious effort to ensure that the seed bank will no longer experience any sort of water breaches that can compromise the world's seed storage in the future.
The extra precautions being made by the government come in the form of water-proofing the 100-meter- long tunnel into the mountain, and digging up trenches that would lead melted water and the occasional rain away from the vault.
Further, they have also removed any heat-producing electrical equipment from the tunnel, and installed pumps in case of any future flooding.
The World's Backup
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault has already proven itself to be useful before. For instance, when scientists of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas were unable to access their own seed vault in Syria, they were able to withdraw their earlier deposits to Svalbard in order to set up a new seed bank in their headquarters in Beirut. They have since returned their earlier deposits of 50,000 seeds after stabilizing the seed bank in Beirut.
Though Svalbard was designed for future disasters on a global scale, this shows how important what Svalbard is doing and safeguarding for many nations right now. It also shows the importance of being prepared and taking extra precautions, especially since the Arctic region is clearly not free from the effects of climate change.