Strategically placed to survive any natural disaster, this winter's rains flooded the arctic seed bank. The bank wasn't destroyed, but it shows how fast things are a changing.
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It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.
The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.
But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.
A new study shows that our planet has 10% less wilderness than in the 1990s.
Via the CS Monitor:
Ten percent of Earth's wilderness has disappeared since the 1990s, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology.
Over the last 20 years, we've lost a total area amounting to twice the size of Alaska, researchers report. But, experts say, there's still time to save the remaining wilderness areas – and they hope the recent findings will spur change.
At the moment, only about 23 percent of the world's land area is made up of wilderness, the study found. Most of this wilderness can be found in North Asia, North Africa, Australia, and North America (primarily the northern parts of Canada). South America has experienced the greatest loss, with a 30 percent decrease since the '90s, and Africa follows with 14 percent.
"The wilderness decline around the world is most in the tropical biomes, the tropical rain forests have lost a lot of wilderness," study co-author Oscar Venter, of the University of Northern British Columbia, told CBS News. "A lot of the Amazon has been lost, the mangrove ecosystems, which are really important wilderness areas have been hit. They are a nursery ground for a lot of the world’s wildlife – young fish are reared in these mangrove ecosystems, they are a base for a lot of the fisheries. Now, there is almost no wilderness left in the mangroves."
Other things from the '90s we have less of: golf visors and light up sneakers, so it isn't all bad. Read the rest