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Climate Change Threatens Extinction for Wild Coffee Plants


Attention coffee lovers: You might want to sip that cuppa just a little bit more slowly than normal as there's news that the beloved wild Arabica coffee plant is facing an almost certain extinction by the year 2080.

The news comes via a recent study led by researchers at the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, and published in the current issue of the journal PLoS One. Entitled "The Impact of Climate Change on Indigenous Arabica Coffee (Coffea arabica): Predicting Future Trends and Identifying Priorities," the study credits climate change for causing the die-off.

Using a computer simulation, researchers estimate that the mountainous region of East Africa will experience a massive reduction in the "bioclimatically suitable" locations for the coffee plant species responsible for most coffee plants farmed today. Between 65 and 100 percent of the region will become unsuitable for the wild coffee plants to flourish, according to the research.

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From the Organic Authority Files

While much of the coffee sold now is farm-raised and not wild, the loss of biodiversity is huge. Wild plants are more genetically diverse and resistant to environmental threats such as diseases and and pests than strains bred for farming. Cultivated coffee is not nearly as hardy, and farms in Mexico and Central America are also at risk for becoming inhospitable growing areas that could cripple coffee production in the areas by as much as one-third before 2050.

The researchers did note areas that may be capable of adapting to climate change, such as Ethiopia's Yayu Coffee Forest, which could become integral in providing wild Arabica a long-term home for the plant species.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Shereen M

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