A global backstop

The vault hold the seeds of many tens of thousands of varieties of essential food crops such as beans, wheat and rice. In total, the vault now holds seeds of more than 4000 plant species. These seed samples are duplicates of seed sample stores in national, regional and international gene banks.

Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The group of islands range from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. The largest island is Spitsbergen followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. Administratively, the archipelago is not part of any Norwegian county, but rather forms an unincorporated area administered by a state-appointed governor. Photo: Google Maps Credit: Google Maps

The NordGen Seed Portal holds an updated list of all seed species deposited in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Registrering og pakking av frø i Nigeria
Seeds in Nigeria are registered and packed. The crates sent to Svalbard hold up to 400 seed samples each. Each seed sample consists of around 500 seeds sealed in an airtight aluminum bag. Photo: The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria (IITA) Credit: Photo: The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture i Nigeria (IITA).

The Seed Vault is no ordinary gene bank, where scientists and others can apply directly to access seeds. There are many national, regional and international seed collections and gene banks around the world whose primary function is to ensure genetic diversity in the agriculture sector. The Svalbard Seed Vault is a safety stock for these local deposits, which can be used to recreate valuable plant varieties whose seed collections in a local gene bank are lost.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault consist of three identical, separate rock vaults, 9.5 x 27 meters each. The seeds stored in the vault are packed in sealed bags inside sealed boxes, and are placed on high shelf racks inside the vault. Photo: Matthias Heyde Credit: Photo: Matthias Heyde