Arctic permafrost protects Global biodiversity

Did you know?
There are 350,000 plant species worldwide.
Many new ones are expected to be found – with 1,942 being discovered just this year. It is estimated that 90% of fungi species are still unknown to scientists.
40% of plants worldwide are under the threat of extinction.
Before fridges and freezers were invented, people stored food in ice stores which were holes in the ground filled with ice from the winter. People living in the Arctic still use permafrost for food storage.
Permafrost can also store potentially harmful biodiversity like viruses and bacteria that can cause diseases. However, other ancient bacteria may be beneficial and we just don't know.

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Plants are important for all life on Earth and for humans in particular. We rely heavily on plants for food, medicine, fuel, transport and shelter as well as for oxygen! Humans depend on mainly 8 species of plants for food: can you guess what they are from the list below? Unscramble the words to find out!
It is very important to protect these plant species. Rice, wheat, potatoes and sugar are commonly used in cooking all over the world. Sorghum is grown in the US and in Southern Africa and can be used to make oils, alcoholic drinks, syrups and can even be used as biofuel. Maize, which originated in Central America and soybean are used primarily for cattle feed, however humans also eat these two crops all over the world. 80% of the world's soybean is just grown within the US, Brazil and Argentina. Millet is widely consumed in Africa and Asia and is very similar to sorghum.

When we rely so heavily on plants, it is important to preserve them in order to protect a sample of the seeds of these plants in case they are suddenly lost. Many seeds are kept in the biggest seed bank in the world, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

There are many reasons why these seeds need to be stored away in an ice cave. They act as protection against climate change, natural disasters, and are a gene pool for protection and resistance from diseases and other potential man-made disasters. A seed collection acts as a sort of insurance policy.

How long can you preserve a seed and where and how do you store it?
  • Decorate four jars to store your seeds in: they must be transparent so you can check on them!
  • Keep two jars dry and the other two moist. Put one dry and one moist jar in the fridge and the other two in the freezer.
  • Check what happens to the seeds over the next few weeks.
  • After one month, try to germinate the seeds on damp paper in sunlight.
  • The seeds kept dry should germinate.