For the last twelve months, engineers have been drilling a vault deep inside the rock and permafrost of a mountain on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean. It will house the Svalbard International Seed Bank, and was officially opened last week,when the Prime Minister of Norway (which has provided the £5m to build the bank) deposited the first packet of seeds.
When it's full, the vault will ultimately contain over two billion seeds of more than 4.5 million types from countries all over the world. 130m inside the mountain, it has been built to withstand any natural disaster - from an asteroid strike to a nuclear war - and the seeds inside, kept at a temperature of -18°C, are expected to last for centuries. The bank is intended as a back-up to national seed banks, and the seeds it contains will be determined by the countries wishing to use it. If a regional disaster happened, and a local seed bank was destroyed, the International Seed Bank would be able to supply replacements.
So why have I chosen the Lombardy Poplar to start the virtual seed bank? If you lived here you'd know - it's not called the Lombardy Poplar for nothing. They're everywhere, used as windbreaks, grown in plantations for their wood, or just ... there. In May they shed copious quantities white, cottony, pollen filaments that fill the air, and make it seem as if it's been snowing. If you've ever seen the film Amarcord, there's a scene (the first scene ??) in a field with all the poplar pollen swirling around. They're lovely to see, but cause a hideous allergic reaction and mean a lot of clearing up - I sweep buckets of the stuff off the balcony every summer.
So what about you? If you'd like to contribute to the virtual seed bank, write a post saying which plant you'd include in the bank to represent your area. Leave a comment when your post is up so we can find you, and if enough people join in I'll publish the list in the sidebar. Can we beat Svalbard's 4.5m plants ???
Explore some more ....
- For more information on seed banks, and a video taken inside the Svalbard vault, click here.