Built into permafrost on Norway's Spitsbergen Island in the Arctic Circle, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault officially opened on February 26. Funded by the Norwegian government, the secure facility intends to house a library of seeds from all food crops from all countries as a hedge against wars, poverty and environmental disasters, including climate change. The vault sits at an altitude of 130 meters, so even if the ice caps melt, the seeds will not be inundated. Each sample, stored in four-ply foil packets, may contain hundreds of seeds.

Current number of stored seed samples: 268,000

Weight in tons: 10

Maximum sample capacity: 4.5 million

Number of seeds: 2.25 billion

Storage temperature, degrees Celsius: -18

Number of years seeds will stay frozen if power is lost: 200

Number of armored and air-locked doors protecting the seeds: 4

Estimated survival time in years of seeds from: Barley: 2,000

Wheat: 1,700

Sorghum: 20,000

SOURCES: Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Norway; “Seeds of Future Agriculture Enter Doomsday Deep Freeze,” at www.SciAm.com, February 26