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The Doomsday Vault

Svalbard Doomsday Seed Bank

Svalbard Doomsday Seed Bank

OK, so it’s a Doomsday Seed Vault located in an old copper mine on the remote Arctic island of Svalbard, Norway. But it’s more important than you may imagine. Essentially, every single commercially grown plant we buy at the supermarket is a clone of one of only a few specially selected strains of genetic material. This poses a problem: crop species are exposed to any disease which can exploit that single strain, for example, a newly mutated strain of fungus could wipe out an entire world crop in matter of months, and cause massive food shortages.

Read more and view more pictures at: Atlas Obscura.

To preserve gene diversity of major food crops, international institutions have established a series of green gene banks to store samples of genetic material of various strains of each plant species. The Svalbard Seed Bank is meant as a sort of safety net, a reserve of last resort, and the vault functions like a genetic safety deposit box, storing duplicate specimens from genebanks worldwide.

The facility has the capacity to conserve 3 samples of each of the approximately 1.5 million distinct seed samples of agricultural crops thought to exist for anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 years.

Which triggers a wild thought: if there were ever other intelligent civilizations that once populated Earth or another planet, the place to search for clues would be such a doomsday vault in their frozen tundras.

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