A new vault will protect the world's books, archives and documents on long-lasting film (Wikimedia Commons) By Jason Daley The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the centralized backup system for seed banks around the world. Meanwhile, traditional seed varieties with traits that make them more resilient to climate change are being lost. “We should also be raising the alarm for our disappearing agrobiodiversity,” M. Ann Tutwiler, then director-general of Bioversity International, wrote in The Guardian in 2017. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It’s a library of diversity and a time capsule of agricultural history, designed to safeguard the world’s most important crops from catastrophe ― including war, disease and, increasingly, the impact of climate change. The vault now holds seeds representing more than 5,000 species, provided by local seed banks from nearly every country in the world. These contributions were made into a quilt that was also deposited in the mine together with the artworks. Just three crops ― rice, wheat and corn ― account for more than 50% of the world’s plant-derived calories, according to a 2017 report from the research organization Bioversity International. ©2020 Verizon Media. Officially known as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, this is a backup facility for the 1,700 seed banks around the world. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault holds over one million samples of seeds from all around the world. It’s a testament to the resilience and importance of the Cherokee that they are contributing to the world’s knowledge of seeds and foods, he said. These were identified as having the most historical value and as being the most popular requests from the tribe’s seed bank. 3 is the site Nordic Gene Bank (now NordGen) used to store back up copies of its seeds from 1984-2008, and the site that provided the original inspiration for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Arctic World Archive (AWA) is a facility for data preservation, located in the Svalbard archipelago on the island of Spitsbergen, Norway, not far from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. In 2019, an open global call was made for visual artworks that specifically spoke to the bio-cultural connections in agriculture and the links seeds have to society, ecology and culture through their presence within agri-food systems. The exhibition – titled “Forgotten Stories of Frozen Seeds” – was the result of a collaboration between scientists in the biodiverSEEDy project, professional artists and farming communities from all around the world. Based on the submitted proposals, four international artists were selected to be involved – David Voros, Sara Schneckloth, Mollie Goldstrom and Mary Robinson. The vault has a particular focus on food crops, so 69% of the seeds are grains (rice the biggest at 85 … From floorboards at the ground level visitors can visually retrieve what is stored inside the Arctic World Archive and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. While we are beginning to feel the grief of losing animal species, we are perhaps less aware of the impact of losing plant species. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is welcoming new seeds from around the world, including the Cherokee Nation. Svalbard is a declared demilitarised zone by 42 nations. Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost's next chapter. The tribe has selected nine seeds for the vault, including Cherokee white eagle corn, yellow flour corn, long greasy beans, Trail of Tears beans and candy roaster squash. During the exhibition in Tromsø, each of the participating artists spoke about the inspiration behind their works and the scientists discussed why art is important for agricultural biodiversity conservation. “While the Global Seed Vault is clearly an incredible and important achievement, many people feel that something significant has been lost when we freeze seeds as a way of conserving them,” says Dr. Wickson. The artworks were exhibited for one night only in Tromsø, before being packed inside sealed boxes and transported to Svalbard, just like the seeds in the Seed Vault. The seed bank is constructed 120 meters (390 ft) inside a sandstone mountain at Svalbard on Spitsbergen Island. The creation of The Svalbard Ark and the deposits within it represent an ongoing effort to recognise and celebrate the important interconnections between biological and cultural diversity and to conserve the cultural heritage connected to our relationship with seeds. It is designed to remain at -0.4 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius), even without power. AWA is set deep inside an arctic mountain on the Svalbard archipelago. Almost 100 proposals from over 25 countries were received and the international jury made a selection of artworks in two tiers. Inside the dramatic vertical vault of the exhibition building … On the other hand, he said, “we know that if the Global Seed Vault is ever opened for use, that it’s because of a world catastrophe and I think the most alarming catastrophe that could befall the Earth is the impacts of climate change.”. This included work with indigenous farmers in Mexico and research on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Artists selected in the second tier were invited to send their works for inclusion in the exhibition and in a group box for deposit in the Svalbard Ark. History The idea of having a global security storage facility in Svalbard, to house duplicates of seed conserved in gene banks all over the world began being discussed in the 1980s. At the core of the vertical vault of the exhibition building forms a powerful digital archive where both permanent and temporary exhibits are experienced first-hand. In 2016, a warm Arctic summer led water from melting permafrost to breach the entrance of the vault. “It’s a great honor,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, of making the Svalbard seed deposit. “Through this event, we want to remind the world of the interconnections that exist between nature and culture and to honor the important work farmers perform in generating and maintaining diverse agricultural plants,” said Dr. Fern Wickson, leader of the biodiverSEEDy project and creator of the Seed Cultures Initiative. We also lose an essential weapon in the fight against the climate crisis: diversity. One of the project’s main conclusions is that developing more ‘biocultural’ approaches to crop diversity conservation could help address some of these concerns. In 2018, the project held an art exhibition to capture, communicate and conserve interconnections between nature and culture in living seeds. Welcome to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault Way up north, in the permafrost, 1300 kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle, is the world's largest secure seed storage, opened by the … The Svalbard Global Seed Vault contains 642 million seeds and has the ability to hold up to 2,5 billion. Farming communities from around the world were also invited to ‘sew the story of their seed’, and contributions, with received from Brazil, India, the Philippines, Kenya, Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States. War and civil strife have a history of destroying some genebanks. How This Arctic ‘Doomsday Vault’ Could Save Us From A Global Food Crisis. “The Cherokee Nation have cherished a lot of the varieties that they’re depositing now for hundreds of years, if not millennia,” Dempewolf said, adding, “There’s so much cultural history and story connected to those seeds.”, For Hoskin, there are mixed emotions. 3. We’re talking about plants that helped sustain us as the United States and white settlers were encroaching on our lands.”, Hoskin said seeds for these plants were carried with the Cherokee people when, in 1838, they were forced to move from their lands in the Southeastern United States to a new homeland in Oklahoma ― a brutal eviction that became known as the “Trail of Tears.”, Very little is known about the cultural significance of many of the oldest seeds housed in seed banks, said Dempewolf, which is what makes the Cherokee Nation’s deposit particularly exciting for the Svalbard vault. The “Doomsday Vault” lies within the Arctic Circle on the island of Spitsbergen, about halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. The following day, the artists deposited their boxes of artworks in Frøhallen (the room for seeds) in mine no. The Svalbard Seed Vault is located within the depths of a mountain on an island that is … The Svalbard Global Seed Vault approached the Cherokee Nation after reading an NPR story about the tribe’s program to conserve important seeds and distribute them to Cherokee Nation citizens across the U.S. and overseas. “Just like you have your computer and you want to back up your hard drive and make sure that your data is at another location ― that’s the purpose of the seed vault at Svalbard,” said Hannes Dempewolf, senior scientist at the Crop Trust, the international nonprofit that manages the seed vault together with the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen). The Svalbard Global Seed Vault's mission is to provide a safety net against accidental loss of diversity in traditional genebanks. All of the knowledge generated through this project was then collated in the interactive website www.seed-links.com, developed as a pedagogical tool to allow people to explore different agri-food systems and better understand the impact of their own food choices. Part of HuffPost Impact. Within two years, seeds were grown successfully and then transferred back to the Svalbard global seed bank. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the foundations. It is also the site of the ongoing 100 year seed experiment. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. Due to the withdrawal of 92,430 seeds … For more content and to be part of the “This New World” community, follow our Facebook page. A landmark United Nations report last year found that up to one million land and marine species could go extinct over the next decade. This room in mine no. The project found that while both approaches were clearly important and necessary, there was significant scope to improve the interactions and interconnections between them. The data can be stored safely with a … While the popular press has emphasized its possible utility in the event of a major regional or global catastrophe, it will be more frequently accessed when genebanks lose samples due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, and natural disasters. “The seeds are very much a symbol of Cherokee strength, grit and endurance,” Hoskin said. They’re stored deep within a mountain in a structure designed to … The researchers compared the social, biological and technical networks of relations of agro-ecological, certified organic, chemically-intensive and genetically modified agri-food systems. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened officially on February 26, … The Vault serves as a ‘back-up’ in case disaster (e.g. This exhibition included talks from the leader of the Agri/Cultures project and founder of the Seed Cultures Initative, Dr. Fern Wickson, and the manager of the Global Seed Vault, Åsmund Asdal. “What we documented to be missing is the sense of deep cultural significance and meaning these seeds have for people, as well as knowledge on aspects such as their various culinary uses or ecological interactions.”. The national see… Flor Rivera representing artworks submitted by a global range of small-holder farming communities. The Global Seed Vault in Norway, intended as “the ultimate failsafe for biodiversity of crops,” is now threatened by rapid warming in Longyearbyen, the town on the island of Svalbard that is … The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located around 1,300 kilometers from the North Pole on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago near Longyearbyen. Svalbard Global Seed Vault, operated by Global Crop Diversity Trust, is practically the world’s insurance policy. 3, administed by the Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani (SNSK). The Svalbard vault has already amassed about 1 million seeds representing more than 5,000 species since opening in 2008. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. It’s supposed to outlast humanity. To create this exhibition, an open call was made for artworks exploring the interrelationships between agricultural seeds and their cultural and/or ecological contexts. “And the fact that the seeds are still with us, are still grown by our people, and are now recognized by a world body as being indispensable to the future of the planet, I think that speaks highly of the Cherokee people.”. Although the Global Seed Vault is an incredible and important achievement, many people feel that something significant has been lost when seeds are frozen as a way of conserving them. At the end of the exhibition, a silent ceremony was held to pack and seal the artworks inside the black boxes for storage in the permafrost. Climate change is driving up air and ocean temperatures, distorting ecosystems and triggering destructive feedback loops. The aim is to store a copy of every unique seed that currently exists in the global network of seed banks. The arctic-based project is a new visitor center for exploring the Svalbard Global Seed Vault … In a vault 120 metres into a mountain, is an iconic building, where no one can go. Any archival medium was welcome, but all proposed works were asked to fit within the boxes used to store seed deposits in the Vault. It’s not only the foods the plants produce and the link to cultures that disappear. How to visit the Svalbard Global Seed Vault What is it? Designed by Snøhetta, the unusually shaped cone is named for both its purpose and location. Here the artworks will remain in permanent storage as the second deposit in the Svalbard Ark, resting forever in the mountain alongside the seeds in the neighboring Seed Vault. The Climate Crisis Is Threatening Bees. The seed vault is built to contain 4,5 million different seed … Here the artworks will remain in permanent storage as the first deposit in the Svalbard Ark, resting forever in the mountain alongside the seeds in the neighboring Seed Vault. “The conservation of agricultural biodiversity could be significantly strengthened by actively collecting the cultural stories connected to seeds and working to also conserve these for posterity in some way. The vault was constructed as an insurance policy against all manner of catastrophes ― manmade or natural ― but climate change increasingly seems to be making the most compelling case for its existence. Tuesday’s seed deposit is the first to be made since the upgrade. “After all, if there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains the seven billion people on our planet.”. Svalbard Global Seed Vault While cannabis is strictly illegal in Svalbard, there is one place in the archipelago that possesses an amount of it – the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The vault … Between 2014 and 2018, the biodiverSEEDy project (funded by the Norwegian Research Council) researched and worked to advance the conservation of agricultural biodiversity. Here’s What's Helping To Save Them. And biodiversity is paying a heavy price. The aim of the exhibition was to raise awareness of the work of the Global Seed Vault and the importance of social, cultural and ecological connections to seeds. HuffPost’s “This New World” series is funded by Partners for a New Economy and the Kendeda Fund. The rest of the building stretches into the mountainside, sunk deep into the rock and permafrost to keep temperatures low. Here, the sealed boxes of artworks were ‘planted’ into the permafrost of the mountain in coal mine no. In this short documentary, we catch a fascinating glimpse into the world’s northernmost and coldest seed bank, situated deep within the permafrost. Named The Arc, the building will be a place for people to digitally view items from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is the world's largest, secure seed-storage, and the Arctic World Archive … The Svalbard Seed Vault is a secure vault designed to store seeds from all major crops around the world in a place that will keep them safe, even in the midst of global crises or wars. It is “a safe and secure facility now,” said Dempewolf. The biodiverSEEDy project, funded by the Norwegian Research Council, has investigated both in situ and ex situ approaches to crop diversity conservation, which includes freezing seeds in genebanks and supporting traditional farmers to continue their practices.