One of Humanity’s fail-safe measures for the future is the Global Seed Vault, a storage room on the frozen island of Spitsbergen. This island is located in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, in the high Arctic.

The vault was created in 2007 through collaboration with nonprofits and the Norwegian government to store genetic variants of staple food crops. They are saved here to be distributed in the event of an agricultural calamity/plant species extinction. Svalbard was designated as the location not only because it is remote and protected, but because soil permafrost provides a constant source of refrigeration, requiring no electric power source.

Recently, however, word has spread that water has breached the seed freezer, endangering the vault. The phenomenon is alarming, as one of the principal purposes of the seed vault is to guard against the effect of climate change. Indeed, Spitsbergen experienced abnormally high temperatures this recent year, causing more permafrost to melt than the designers had planned for.

Thankfully, no seeds appear to be have been damaged in the event. CropTrust, one of the nonprofits involved in managing the vault, released a statement to clarify the event. 

“It has been reported that the Seed Vault has seen water intrusion due to melting permafrost. The Royal Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Norway, the Crop Trust, and NordGen would like to assure seed depositors and the public that the seeds are completely safe and no damage has been done to the facility. The Royal Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Statsbygg, Norway, is taking appropriate measures to ensure the protection of the Seed Vault and improve the construction to prevent future incidents. Globally, the Seed Vault is, and will continue to be, the safest backup of crop diversity.”

Countries from around the world deposit their crop variants in Svalbard, and the first withdrawal was made in 2012 to relieve Syria in the midst of its civil war.

(Featured image source: CropTrust)