The Svalbard Global Seed Vault represents a global effort to safeguard plant genetic resources for future generations. This vault is located about half way between the North Pole and the coast of Norway, near the town of Longyearbyen (population 1900), in the remote arctic island archipelago of Svalbard. Constructing the vault required drilling a 390 feet tunnel into permafrost on the side of a mountain on Spitsbergen Island. The vault consists of three large concrete chambers that collectively have the capacity to hold 3.5 million seed samples. Seed of crops important for food and agriculture will be safely stored for hundreds to thousands of years, protected from global or regional catastrophes.
Duplicate storage to ensure backed up plant collections is accomplished within the U.S. through NPGS's field sites and base collection at NCGRP. Participation in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault endeavor gave the United States a visible presence in the worldwide effort to safeguard the genetic diversity that underpins our food supply. The worldwide effort to preserve seeds is consistent with the philosophy that genetic resources are global assets.
The historic opening of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was celebrated 26 February 2008. Over 11,000 NPGS samples were included in the initial shipments of seeds from all over the world (pictured above). As of October 1, 2014, 69,312 accessions of seed have been sent to Svalbard with another 19,000 pending.