Construction of the first-ever vault to protect the world's agricultural seeds is scheduled to get underwayin March on an island in the Arctic archipelago between the North Pole and Norway.

The $5-million vault, funded by the Norwegian government,will be built deep inside the permafrost of a mountain on Svalbard.

Referredtoas the "Noah's Ark" for seeds,the vault will protect more than 1.5 million different seed types from crops such as wheat and rice, including Canadian seeds, saysNina Due, who is with Norway's Agriculture Department.

"It's remote and therefore more secure than other places in the world today and, of course, you have the permafrost," Due told CBC News.

The vault will be operated by theRome-based Global Crop Diversity Trust, says spokesperson Cary Fowler.

In the last few years irreplaceable seed banks have been destroyed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by typhoons, he said.

Now climate change is also a threat, he said.

"So the seed vault in Svalbard really provides a safety net, the ultimate security for what is arguably the most valuable natural resource on earth," Fowler said.

Retired University of Saskatchewan professor Bryan Harvey applauds the establishment of the vault.

"The idea being that if anything happens, heaven forbid, to the original sample, we still have the backup in Svalbard," he said.

The seed vault is expected to be ready for operation by the winter of 2008.