At least 60% of wild coffee species face extinction triggered by climate change, deforestation and disease. What does that mean for your morning caffeine kick?
Two decades of research have revealed that 60 per cent of the world’s coffee species face extinction due to the combined threats of deforestation, disease and climate changes.
These results are worrying for the millions of farmers around the world who depend on the continued survival of coffee for their livelihoods.
The wild strain of Arabica, the most widely consumed coffee on the planet, is among those now recognised as endangered, raising concerns about its long-term survival.
There are over 100 coffee species, however, the two main ones that are widely produced and sold are Arabica and Robusta, which comprise nearly all the world’s store-bought coffee. Besides the taste, sugar and caffeine contents are different between these two species, also Robusta is easier to tend to on the farm, has a higher yield and is less sensitive to insects, the extra caffeine in Robusta is a natural chemical defence for the coffee seed as the quantity in the Robusta is toxic to bugs.
Although both Arabica and robusta don’t tolerate low moisture or drought. But Arabica, in particular, are more sensitive to temperatures changes, as global temperatures soar, the researchers estimate natural populations of arabica are likely to halve by the end of the century.
Why are wild coffee species are so important?
The coffee we drink today exists because of access to wild species, one of the two most popular coffee species that everyone drinks today, robusta, was barely even known until the early 1900s. It was just a wild species, growing in remote forests.
Among the coffee species threatened with extinction are those that have the potential to be used to breed and develop the coffees of the future, including those resistant to disease and capable of withstanding worsening climatic conditions.
The research team has called emergency action to protect coffee species both in the wild and in special facilities like seed banks, but the coffee seeds don’t do particularly well in the seed banks like other crops. As it stands, less than half of strains are held in storage, and over a quarter fall outside the range of any special protected zones.
The consumer could face from a coffee shortfall and coffee price expect to be dramatically increased in the near future, if no major changes can be made to preserve the wild coffee species.