Conserving Biodiversity

Since we were talking about biodiversity, and I think seed banks came up, I decided to look up the one and Norway and check it out.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is built underground, preserving thousands of seeds in case of global or regional crises. It gives priority to seeds that are used for crops, but tries to have a big diversity in the crops it has. Out of the 1400 (approx) gene banks, there are around 6.5 million seeds stored, but only 1-2 million of those are distinct breeds.
The Svalbard Bank

I think that places such as these are extremely important, especially for agriculture, but I wonder if this might be done for animal dna, as well. If we want to protect the plants, we also need to take into account the species that help them grow, such as bees or other pollinators. I think that, even though this would be an extremely expensive undertaking, it might be worthwhile in the long run.



11 Responses to “Conserving Biodiversity”

  1. ensignredshirt says:

    I think the question of how we would access the vault in case of an emergency is a good one. I also wonder how the seeds would be distributed once the disaster occurred. While each of the donors in the vault owns their own seed, how much would it take to get them to share in a worst case scenario?

  2. Dr. Szulczewski says:

    You may be surprised to know that we have seed banks in the USA, too. There are several in case one area gets bombed or destroyed. None of them are as high tech or comprehensive as this new one, but it’s something governments have planned for for quite awhile.

  3. kelsi729 says:

    This idea in Norway seems very logical especially in today’s society where many nations have become increasingly dependent on Agriculture. It is shocking that in America many of our seeds are patented by huge corporations so this technology would be hard to implement in the states. An issue i foresee though is cost of this preservation of the seeds, especially the fuel costs to power the vault to preserve the seeds. This is a very interesting and innovative idea that i would like to see in America in case of a mass agricultural collapse.

  4. drewchritton says:

    To continue along with other concerns, these organisms are going extinct for a reason. Bringing them back would probably get harder and harder as time went on and the climate changed. That being said, it is a really interesting idea and it may very well pay off. I agree with Liz though, obviously we are doing this because we are worried that we are going to loose some valuable species that we would rather keep around. So if we are already worried about it, lets start protecting it now!

  5. cchase says:

    I like the idea of a seed bank but it makes me worry about rights to the plants. If there is a global disaster who owns the seeds? Who decides who can and can’t grow the precious crops? These seed banks are also extremely expensive to maintain and it could be years before a seed bank was discovered, or utilized, after a disaster and those seeds might not be functional. As for animal DNA my biggest concern, again, is who will own that DNA? Does any one person, or nation, have the right to own the domesticated short hair cat? I hope not, I love cats.

  6. dechard says:

    That’s really cool, a place that would be near imposable to destroy that holds genetic material for a huge amount of plant species. A great post doomsday thing. I wonder if the same could be done with animal genetic material. If so it could be like a modern arc for genetic material.

  7. mauer says:

    This is so neat! I never knew about things, they seem like a great idea, in case of emergency. But like Katie I have a lot of questions too. My biggest one is ‘how do you decide?’ How do these scientists know which ones are the best seeds to keep. They are keeping them for global disaster but what if the global disaster comes and the world is so drastically changed that the seeds that are preserved cannot survive anywhere. This place/idea seems insightful but at the same time how can you prepare. If a secular change occurs there will be no way for us to use those seeds everything will be too different. However, for less dramatic changes these seed stashes might be a good idea. They could be a jumping off point. Maybe they would evolve in the new climate or scientists could have a good start for genetic modification. I think its better to be safe than sorry! Might as well stash some important seeds up…just in case

  8. kylie says:

    Add the animal DNA and it’ll be a Noah’s Ark! I did wonder, too, how you would access the seeds and so forth after a major catastrophic event, but at least it’s something. They probably have smaller seed banks in military complexes too all over the world.

    Also, Liz, you make a good point. We too often focus on the man-made goods without looking at the heart of the matter. I don’t know if this is where you were going with it, but people do save heirloom seeds all the time, everywhere. I love reading the catalogs from these seed-savers because the different seed varieties have stories attached to them. One was a melon that was called something like ‘Lover’s Passion’ because diving into it on a hot summer day was like indulging in the passion of your true love [this is deeply paraphrased, but it was something like that]. Others are named after the person who brought the variety here from Turkey in 1523 or something like that… Good stuff.

  9. lucy says:

    Wow I had no idea that a seed vault even existed! It seems like a smart precaution to take. I like your idea about preserving the DNA of pollinators and other things that help the crops grow. It seems that if we are making the effort to preserve seeds, we should ensure that they will grow by preserving the pollinators as well.

  10. Katie Diemer says:

    This project sounds interesting, but I have so many “what-if” questions about it. The facilities are built to withstand climate change (including flooding from rising sea levels), which I think is very insightful. However, I also assume that they’ll need fuel to power the vaults. How will they get the fuel to the vaults if there’s flooding? Can these seeds grow in any climate and in any country? How will they ship out the seeds and access this isolated location in a crisis?

  11. Liz says:

    When I read your blog about the seed vault, the first thought that came to mind was a time capsule. We hear about saving things for the future generation to remember about us, like trophies, pictures, CDs, etc., but it doesn’t seem like we ever apply that to real life. It’s fascinating that the generations now want future generations to remember our culture, but why don’t we want them to remember the environment that allowed for that culture to thrive? I know the seed vault is for drastic circumstances; however the time capsule is what came to mind. Why can’t we just preserve a little of what we have? Why can’t we set aside a certain amount each day and before we know it we’ll have enough for us and future generations? People can be so ignorant. – LCG