A study conducted by scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK), in collaboration with scientists in Ethiopia, reports that climate change alone could lead to the extinction of wild Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) well before the end of this century. Wild Arabica is considered important for the sustainability of the coffee industry due to its considerable genetic diversity. The Arabicas grown in the world's coffee plantations are from very limited genetic stock and are unlikely to have the flexibility required to cope with climate change and other threats, such as pests and diseases. In Ethiopia, the largest producer of coffee in Africa, climate change will also have a negative influence on coffee production. The climate sensitivity of Arabica is confirmed, supporting the widely reported assumption that climate change will have a damaging impact on commercial coffee production worldwide. These are worrying prospects for the world's favourite beverage the second most traded commodity after oil, and one crucial to the economies of several countries. The research is published in PLOS ONE on 7 November 2012.
The study, which uses computer modelling, represents the first of its kind for wild Arabica coffee. In fact, modelling the influence of climate change on naturally occuring populations of any coffee species has never been undertaken. Surprisingly, even studies on plantation coffee have been limited, despite the concerns of farmers and other industry stakeholders.
The researchers used field study and 'museum' data (including herbarium specimens) to run bioclimatic models for wild Arabica coffee, in order to deduce the actual (recorded) and predicted geographical distribution for the species. The distribution was then modelled through time until 2080, based on the Hadley Centre Coupled Model, version 3 (HadCM3), a leading model used in climate change research, and the only one available that covered the desired ti
|Contact: Bronwyn Friedlander|
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew