There’s many species that humans could manage to live without. Some of the nastier parasites, perhaps, or invasive weeds. But coffee? That’s one family that we surely can’t lose.
But according to recent research, it’s on the table if we don’t act against climate change soon.
A paper detailing the risks to the world’s coffee plants was published this week. It shows that 60% of the 124 known species of coffee are on the edge of extinction. The reasons for this are all too familiar: growing uncertainty in weather patterns, the duration of the dry season, more intense rainfall and extreme heatwaves.
The New York Times spoke to Aaron Davis, one of the researchers. In what is perhaps his most disheartening research, Dr. Davis has found that dozens of varieties of wild coffee are at risk of vanishing forever. Among the world’s 124 coffee species, his team of scientists have concluded that 60 percent are at risk of extinction. Climate change and deforestation are to blame.
The urgency to understand coffee production in the face of rapidly increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall is not just for the sake of our morning caffeine fix. Coffee farming provides livelihoods for around 15 million farmers in Ethiopia with the two top produced species, arabica and robusta, both under threat.
Luckily there’s a solution, and it’s in the rainforest.
Wild coffee can be preserved in protected forests. Safe under the canopy and deep in the rainforest, the plants can flourish. Many of these wild coffee species aren’t tasty to drink, but contain genes that could be harnessed to help coffee plants survive climate change and emerging diseases in the future. It is likely that researchers will use these forest species to safeguard the future of the world’s coffee crop.
“We will call on those wild resources time and time again,” said Dr Davis.
Last year news of a possible beer shortage due to climate change raised great alarm. If protecting species, safeguarding incomes and ensuring year-round ice at the poles isn’t reason enough, perhaps the very real threat of losing two of our most-loved drinks may create a thirst for change.
Some surprising facts about coffee:
It was discovered by goats.
Numerous rulers have attempted to ban it as a dangerous agent of radicalisation.
The world’s most expensive coffee has to be extracted from cat poo.
Starbucks opens two stores per day, so they’re going to want to ensure the survival of the species.