On Arctic Island, Seeds Await Doomsday

Mar 7, 2023

Buried deep and safe in the Arctic permafrost of Norway’s Spitsbergen Island, a vault lies hidden. It's filled with seeds. This month, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault got its most diverse donation yet. Now the vault holds over 1.2 million types of seeds. Experts have decided that these seeds could keep humans alive in the event of a disaster.

The facility is often called the “Doomsday Vault.” The cold storage center was founded in 2008. It saves the genetic material of thousands of plant species. Countries across the globe donate seeds to the facility. The vault is shielded against climate change, war, and nuclear radiation. It has thick doors and is covered by tons of frozen soil. The Vault has internal temperatures of -18 degrees Celsius (-0.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

"The whole of humanity relies on the genetic diversity of crops … and the Seed Vault is the last line of defense against the loss of that diversity," Norway’s minister of agriculture and food told Reuters.

The Doomsday Vault opens three times a year. This year, the Vault got 19,500 new entries. To celebrate, officials are giving the public a rare glimpse into the facility. People can take a free virtual tour. Users can spy down concrete tunnels, peer through huge chambers, and explore aisles of crates. Each crate holds the seeds of a plant deemed vital to human survival.

"From here in Svalbard, the world looks different. This Seed Vault represents hope, unity and security," said one of the vault’s operators.

Photo from Reuters. 

Based on the details in the story, the seeds stored in “The Doomsday Vault” are intended to be used _______. (Common Core RI.5.3; RI.6.3)
a. three times a year
b. whenever a country is in need
c. in the case of a global disaster
d. never
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