How stainless steel is helping to preserve genetic diversity in Svalbard

How stainless steel is helping to preserve genetic diversity in Svalbard

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On the cold and remote Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, there lies one of the most important vaults on the face of the earth.  The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a long term storage facility that preserves duplicates of seeds collected from every corner of the globe.

And what’s the point of this? Well, the vault is designed to provide security for the world's food supply against the loss of seeds in gene banks due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, war, sabotage, disease and natural disasters.

The bank first opened on the 26th of February 2008 at a cost of 45 million kr, which is about 28 million pounds. The location was selected because it lacked tectonic activity and had permafrost, which aids preservation. Also at 130 m (430 ft) above sea level the site will remain dry even if the ice caps melt.  The seeds are kept in cold dark conditions so that they go dormant.

Running the length of the facility's roof and down the front face to the entryway is an illuminated artwork named Perpetual Repercussion. The roof and vault entrance are filled with highly reflective stainless steel, mirrors, and prisms.Norwegian artist Dyveke Sanne. Sanne herself put her own thoughts about the seed vault:

“The existence of the seed vault reminds us of our own place in the whole and of the condition of the Earth. The seeds commit us to a future. They are biodiverse copies that demand cyclical repetition in action instead of a continuing faith in appointed originals and linear progress.”


A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at DSM Stainless Steel