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Biodiversity 'doomsday vault' in numbers

by Staff Writers
Longyearbyen, Norway (AFP) Feb 26, 2008
Here are key figures regarding the Arctic "doomsday vault", to be inaugurated on Tuesday, which holds samples of the world's most important seeds and aims to provide mankind with a Noah's Ark of food crops in the event of global catastrophe.

Minus 18: The constant temperature, measured in degrees Celsius (minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit), in the three cold chambers that make up the vault. Even if the freezer system fails the permafrost will ensure that temperatures never rise above 3.5 degrees Celsius below freezing.

0: The number of people working at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The seed bank will be under constant remote surveillance through motion detectors and cameras.

4: The number of armoured and airlocked doors leading to the precious seeds. They can only be opened with electronic keys with different access levels.

12: The number of major agricultural crops that make up most of the human diet. Each crop can count tens and even hundreds of thousands of varieties.

130: The altitude, measured in metres (425 feet), the vault sits at -- high enough that it would not flood if the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt entirely due to global warming.

1,400: The number of existing gene banks around the world. Some contain no more than a single seed sample, while the largest ones can hold more than 500,000.

20,000: The number of years that sorghum seeds can conserve their viability once placed in the Svalbard vault. The number falls to 55 for sunflower seeds.

200,000: The number of existing varieties of rice and wheat.

268,000: The number of samples, all containing different varieties, already stored in the vault on the day of its inauguration.

4.5 million: The number of samples there is room for inside the vault -- double the number of varieties thought to exist in the world today.

6.0 million: The price, in euros (8.9 million dollars), the vault cost to build. The Norwegian government has footed the entire bill.

2.0 billion: The number of seeds that could in the end be stored in the "doomsday vault", since each sample can contain several hundred seeds.

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Seed vault in Arctic is mankind's 'insurance policy': project leader
Longyearbyen, Norway (AFP) Feb 26, 2008
An airtight vault carved into the Arctic permafrost and filled with samples of the world's most important seeds is an insurance policy for mankind, according to the project head.

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