Here's some news that will make you appreciate your daily flat white. New research has shown that 60 percent of wild coffee species are threatened with extinction. The new study, published in Science Advances, is warning that climate change, drought, deforestation and the spread of disease are putting the world's coffee plants, which grow naturally in rainforests, at risk.
Among the species that are in danger are Arabica (the most commonly used bean in the UK) and Robusta, two of the most popular and widely traded origins in the world. According to researchers at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the results are "worrying" for the future of global coffee production.
"A figure of 60% of all coffee species threatened with extinction is extremely high, especially when you compare this to a global estimate of 22% for plants," Dr Eimear Nic Lughadha, a senior research leader at Kew, commented. "Some of the coffee species assessed have not been seen in the wild for more than 100 years, and it is possible that some may already be extinct. We hope this new data will highlight species to be prioritised for the sustainability of the coffee production sector so that appropriate action can be taken to safeguard their future."
The study of 124 coffee species found that 75 of these are considered under threat from extinction, 35 are not threatened while there is a lack of data on the remaining 14 species. Most of the threatened species can be found in Madagascar, where there are 43 species at risk, and Tanzania, where 12 are.
In a second paper, published in Global Change Biology, researchers found the Arabica species, which originates in Ethiopia, to be endangered. But even more concerning is that the population of this variety is estimated to decrease by up to 50% or more by 2088 due to climate change.
As the global coffee trade currently relies so heavily on Arabica and Robusta, it's likely that other coffee species will be vital for plant development in the future.
"The use and development of wild coffee resources could be key to the long-term sustainability of the coffee sector," Dr Aaron Davis, lead author of the paper, said. "Targeted action is urgently required in specific tropical countries, particularly in Africa, to protect the future of coffee."
The researchers hope that measures including forest preservation and regeneration could help to protect wild Arabica coffee in Ethiopia. "Given the importance of Arabica coffee to Ethiopia, and to the world, we need to do our utmost to understand the risks facing its survival in the wild," said Dr Tadesse Woldemariam Gole, Senior Researcher for Environment, Climate Change and Coffee Forest Forum.
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