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Coffee next on climate chopping-block

The looming ARABICA APOCALYPSE

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“Climate deniers,” just go and fetch yourself a coffee and ignore this story. For the rest of us, the news is dire: according to a study by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, wild Arabica could be on the climate change hit list.

OK, deep breaths: the cultivated stuff will still be out there. Maybe: according to the study, the domestic crops have very limited genetic diversity, which makes them vulnerable to any new pest or infection that comes along.

Hence the importance of wild Arabica, which provides the stock for hybridisation.

Running Arabica’s chances against three emission scenarios, over three timescales (2020, 2050 and 2080), and with a geographical resolution of 1 Km for the plant’s Ethiopian homeland, the models “showed a profoundly negative influence on the number and extent of wild Arabica populations”, Kew says.

While the most favourable scenario leaves coffee survivable – 62 percent of the areas now able to support it would survive – the worst-case model suggested that 97 percent of its range would no longer support the crop.

“Of the two analyses undertaken, the locality analysis is regarded by the authors as the most pragmatic and informative. The predicted reduction in the number of Arabica localities, between 65 percent and 99.7 percent, can be taken as a general assessment of the species’ survival as a whole”, the research states.

The researchers add that the impacts won’t be confined to Ethiopia: world-wide, it will become harder to find places suitable for coffee production. “Optimum cultivation conditions are likely to become increasingly difficult to achieve in many pre-existing coffee growing areas, leading to a reduction in productivity, increased and intensified management (such as the use of irrigation) and crop failure (some areas becoming unsuitable for Arabica cultivation),” Kew states.

And of course, without coffee, we could kiss goodbye to software development as well. ®

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