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Climate Change Could Wipe Out Wild Arabica by 2080, Study Shows

deforestation in Ethiopia

deforestation photo courtesy of Kew

Climate change may have devastating impacts on the long-term health of wild arabica, to the point of near extinction by 2080. That’s the thrust of a spine-chilling new study released by the London-based plant research group Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

In collaboration with researchers in Ethiopia, Kew scientists used several climate change models to explore the damaging effects of climate change on various strains of arabica, with best case results showing 65 percent local deterioration by 2080 and worst-case results showing near extinction.

Here’s what some of the project’s researchers had to say about the frightening, first-of-its-kind study:

Aaron Davis, Head of Coffee Research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, says, “Coffee plays an important role in supporting livelihoods and generating income, and has become part of our modern society and culture. The extinction of Arabica coffee is a startling and worrying prospect. However, the objective of the study was not to provide scaremonger predictions for the demise of Arabica in the wild. The scale of the predictions is certainly cause for concern, but should be seen more as a baseline, from which we can more fully assess what actions are required.”

Tadesse Woldemariam Gole, from the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum in Ethiopia, says, “As part of a future-proofing exercise for the long-term sustainability of Arabica production it is essential that the reserves established in Ethiopia to conserve Arabica genetic resources are appropriately funded and carefully managed.”

Justin Moat, Head of Spatial Information Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, says, “The worst case scenario, as drawn from our analyses, is that wild Arabica could be extinct by 2080. This should alert decision makers to the fragility of the species. Our aim is to develop and apply these analyses to other important and threatened plants, on a routine basis. There is an immense amount of information held in museum collections around the world, such as Kew, and we have only just started to unlock their potential for assessing some of society’s most pressing issues.”

For more information on the study, visit Kew