Study: Arabica Coffee Could Go Extinct in the Wild

Posted November 7th, 2012 at 4:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Coffee, the world's favorite beverage, could be a victim of climate change, warn scientists in England and Ethiopia.

Arabica coffee provides about 70 percent of the world's commercial production, and although it is grown on plantations around the world, its natural range is restricted primarily to the highlands of southern Ethiopia. It is highly sensitive to climate fluctuations, but the wild plants have a genetic diversity that breeders rely on to improve the cultivated crop, which does not have the flexibility to respond to climate change.

Scientists at London's Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum in Ethiopia have completed the first computer model of the influence of climate change on wild Arabica. Their emission scenarios for the remainder of the century show a decidedly negative impact on the species' numbers and range. They predict that Arabica could go extinct in one part of its range within a decade due to climate change on top of deforestation, habitat loss and agriculture pressure.

Because Arabica is the only coffee grown in Ethiopia, the local industry could be badly hurt by accelerated climate change, which could reduce usable acreage, require more intense management and lead to crop failure.

The scientists hope their analysis, published in the journal PLOS ONE, will spur the development of new strategies for the survival of Arabica in the wild.