Wild arabica coffee may become extinct before the end of this century because of climate change, according to a study from the U.K. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, conducted with scientists in Ethiopia.
Commercially produced arabica is grown from “very limited genetic stock,” meaning plants have little flexibility in coping with climate change and new threats from pests and diseases, Kew said today in an e-mailed report. Altered weather conditions are likely to have “a negative influence” on coffee output in Ethiopia, Africa’s largest grower, it said.
“Wild arabica is considered important for the sustainability of the coffee industry due to its considerable genetic diversity,” Kew said. “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.”
The report used field work and other data to predict geographical distribution of coffee species until 2080 and found “a profoundly negative influence on the number and extent of wild arabica populations,” Kew said. Results showed reductions of 65 percent to almost 100 percent in wild arabica localities by that year.
Study results may be “conservative” because they exclude deforestation in parts of Ethiopia and South Sudan as well as potential pest and disease issues, Kew said. It also pointed to a possible reduction in the number of birds, which disperse coffee seeds.
Kew, located in the southwest London district of the same name, was founded in 1759 and is a global leader in plant science, according to its website.