In Guy P. Harrison’s book At Least Know This on page 115:
“The most comprehensive study ever done on the total volume of Earth life concluded that there are likely more than 1 trillion species alive right now, and only about one-thousandth of one percent (0.001 percent) of them have been identified. Attach that 1-trillion-living-species figure to the widely accepted estimate that about 99 percent of all species that have ever lived have gone extinct. The mind boggles at how many unique kinds of life-forms must have inhabited this one planet over the last few billion years. Imagine a comprehensive catalog of all species of all time with 100 trillion entries—that would be 100,000,000,000,000 entries!” (1 x 10^14) Making a species entry on a single page and making the books a thousand pages long, it would take 1 x 10^11 books to list them. That is 100 billion thick books! The Earth’s circumference is approximately 40 million meters. If we used thin tissue paper we could squeeze 10,000 pages into a meter. Or 40,000,000 meters divided by 10,000 thin pages equals 4,000 times around the Earth. That seems impossible; there must be a huge error in the estimates somewhere.
Wikipedia’s article on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault states “As part of the vault’s first anniversary, more than 90,000 food crop seed samples were placed into storage, bringing the total number of seed samples to 400,000.” Divide the number 400,000 into 1,000,000,000,000 and you get 2,500,000. In standard verbal notation, they are attempting to preserve approximately one in 2.5 million of Earth’s currently living species. One problem with the existing world seed banks is that a single seed needs a living community to live within.
For comparison, it has recently become common knowledge that we individual human beings are not just a single biological organism, we are a community of perhaps a thousand or more interwoven living things. For example, we don’t digest our food, our gut microbes do that for us. We are as dependent on our microbiome as our microbiome is dependent on us. There are other functions our microbiome also does for us.
The Earth Ark Project is designed to collect and preserve all the plant species on the Earth. It gives every person who wants to preserve the living biome of his local home area the ability to do that. All he needs to do is collect seed and soil samples and send them via the existing postal service to the Earth Ark, South Pole Station, Antarctica. There they are buried in containers in the -50 degree ice, where they will remain until someone needs them. Nearly every living species that lives near the surface of Earth could be sent to the Earth Ark repository.
When the Earth stabilizes after our current exploitation of concentrated natural resources dissipates back into an unrecoverable state, people could go to the Earth Ark and get the seeds of long-extinct species and restore the Earth to something resembling its present beauty.
At the present moment, all the human resources are available to make the Earth Ark a reality. That option won’t be true for long.