'Doomsday' Vault Stores Tree Seeds In Case Of Armageddon

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, also known as the "doomsday" vault, took its first contribution of tree seeds this week.

'Doomsday' Vault Stores Tree Seeds In Case Of Armageddon
Global Crop Diversity Trust / CC BY NC SA 2.0

At the top of the world, on a frozen island called Svalbard, there's an underground bunker called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, more commonly known as the "doomsday" vault. (Video via Google Earth)

In that "doomsday" vault there are lots and lots of frozen seeds of crops from all over the world, just in case humanity ever needs to start over. (Video via General Electric)

Last week, the vault added two types of forest trees: the Norway spruce and the Scots pine. 

The trees' seeds are being added as part of the vault's broader mission to not just safeguard the plants, but also to monitor changes in genetic diversity over time. (Video via Kino Lorber / 'Seeds of Time')

The vault was opened in 2008, the product of a collaboration between two conservation groups: the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center, along with the Norwegian government, which footed the $9 million construction bill. (Video via National Geographic)

It's the brainchild of a handful of conservationists including Cary Fowler, who explained the need for the vault in a 2009 TED talk

"In recent years, we lost the gene bank, the seed bank in Iraq and Afghanistan — you can guess why — in Rwanda, in the Solomon Islands. ... We needed a really safe place, and we went quite far north to find it," Fowler said. 

Fowler argues preserving biodiversity in plants, especially in agricultural plants, is just as important as preserving biodiversity in animals. (Video via BASF)

The basic argument is, in the face of climate change, the more diversity, the more resilient the agriculture, because some seeds that aren't economical now, may be better equipped to withstand challenges in the future, or vice versa. (Video via Global Crop Diversity Trust)

The vault contains tens of thousands of seeds from thousands of different seed types and has the capacity to store 4.5 million different seed types. (Video via Svalbard Global Seed Vault)

The vault expects more tree seed donations from participating countries — all of which retain ownership of the seeds they donate. (Video via Ancient Forest Alliance)

This video includes images from Global Crop Diversity Trust / CC BY NC SA 2.0, Jim Champion / CC BY SA 2.0, and abejorro34 / CC BY NC 2.0.