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 change.
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.
These results are worrying for the millions of farmers around the world who depend on the continued survival of coffee for their livelihoods.
As conditions for coffee farming become tougher, scientists predict the industry will need to rely on wild varieties to develop more resilient strains.
The new study by a British team based primarily at Kew Gardens was the first to assess the status of all 124 coffee species that grow wild across Africa and Asia.
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“A figure of 60 per cent of all coffee species threatened with extinction is extremely high, especially when you compare this to a global estimate of 22 per cent for plants,” said Dr Eimear Nic Lughadha, who leads Kew’s planet assessment unit.
“Some of the coffee species assessed have not been seen in the wild for more than 100 years, and it is possible that some may already be extinct.”
Arabica coffee makes up 60 per cent of the world’s multibillion pound coffee industry. Scientists at Kew worked with Ethiopian collaborators to reveal the enormous threat posed to these plants by climate change.
As global temperatures soar, the researchers estimate natural populations of arabica are likely to halve by the end of the century.
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