The Norwegian government built the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in 2008 to store seed samples of the world's crops and plants. The vault serves as a natural deep freeze, and is meant to protect important genetic material in case of a major man-made or natural disaster.
It holds seed varieties of crops from around the world, including corn, rice and grains. The vault received its one-millionth seed sample on February 26, its 10th anniversary. It has the ability to hold about 2.5 billion seeds in total.
The vault is located on an island about 1,000 kilometers from the North Pole. The samples are buried deep below a mountain.
Svalbard was chosen as the site of the seed bank, in part, because of the area's permafrost – a thick layer of soil that stays frozen throughout the year. It makes for excellent underground cold storage.
But in late 2016, the permafrost began to unexpectedly melt. This caused water to flow into the entrance of the vault tunnel. Officials said the seeds were never in danger. However, the event raised concerns about the need to better protect the samples.
Norway's Agriculture Ministry said improvements to the vault will include a new entry tunnel. They also include construction of a service building for emergency power and cooling units and electrical equipment that might send heat through the tunnel.
Jon Georg Dale is Norway's minister of agriculture and food. He announced the plans. He said they will help the vault continue to be a secure storage area. "It is a great and important task to safeguard all the genetic material that is crucial to global food security," he said.
约恩·耶奥格·达勒(Jon Georg Dale)是挪威农业与食品部部长。他宣布了这些计划。他表示会帮助种子库继续成为一个安全的存储区域。他说，“保护对全球粮食安全至关重要的所有遗传物质是一项伟大而又重要的任务。”
The Svalbard vault acts as a backup to many of the world's seed banks. In 2015, researchers took out seeds from the vault to help build seed collections in Lebanon and Morocco. Those sites were set up to protect materials from an important seed bank in Aleppo, Syria, which was damaged by violence from the country's civil war.
The seeds were re-grown and returned to the Svalbard vault last year.
Dale said such efforts show "that the seed vault is a worldwide insurance for food supply for future generations."
I'm Pete Musto.