Coffee at Risk of Extinction

Climate change isn’t just bringing warmer air temperatures and melting glaciers, but it is putting our delicious morning cup of joe at risk! Currently, over half of the worlds coffee plant species are at risk of disappearing from the planet – so you better get used to the idea of having a morning smoothie.

A recent study illustrated that around the globe we have 124 different species of coffee plants, and climate change alone could cause them to become extinct. The coffee used commercially, Arabica, is already on the endangered species list, and could be gone completely in just 70 years.

Arabica coffee is extremely sensitive and is therefore hard to cultivate. It needs specific temperatures and the right amount of water, so increasing rainfall and higher air temperatures can severely impact the plants ability to grow. Even just a change in a couple degrees could decrease the quality of beans or force them to transform into another species of coffee. Not to mention, higher temperatures can also increase the prevalence of invasive species and pests who attack these plants.

Climate change is just one stressor, many coffee species are grown in Africa where deforestation, human encroachment and disease are also negatively impacting these plants. It is estimated that 50% of land used to grow coffee worldwide will not be farmable by 2100.

Already coffee farmers are moving their crops to cooler regions and higher locations near mountains. Additionally, some countries and areas have increased the amount of protected area for coffee cultivation, and over half of the species of plant seeds are currently being held in seed banks.

Coffee is a multi-billion-dollar industry, the second most traded commodity after oil, and supports over 15 million families in Ethiopia alone. This country relies on coffee for 60% of its export income, and it accounts for just 3% of global coffee production.  

Scientists state that it is more difficult and more expensive to keep coffee seeds in seed banks, so it is imperative to conserve them in the wild as best as possible. Conserving a diverse amount of species is important not only for future cultivation, but for the potential to create genetically modified plants – this could yield species that are not so sensitive to climate change and pests, and even produce more tasty brews.

Further Reading

http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/1/eaav3473

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.14341

https://www.kew.org/science/news/is-our-daily-cup-of-coffee-under-threat

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/more-half-all-coffee-species-are-risk-extinction-180971289/

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/16/health/coffee-species-extinction-climate-study-trnd/index.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2019/01/17/most-coffee-species-at-risk-of-extinction-due-to-climate-change/#3729a4d2cddd

http://theconversation.com/how-the-coffee-industry-is-about-to-get-roasted-by-climate-change-85054

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