Forget the pandas – SAVE COFFEE from extinction

coffee melting in the sun Forget the pandas – SAVE COFFEE from extinctionYou’ve heard about climate change and somewhere in the back of your mind – you’re a little worried.

Clearly a changing climate is not good thing.

But, did you know climate change could make the coffee plant, Coffea arabica, E-X-T-I-N-C-T.

NO MORE COFFEE – ouch ! NO MORE CAFFE LATTE – double ouch !

Breathe – breathe. The EXTINCTION event is probably about 70 years away, BUT you may be suddenly feeling a little bit more motivated to cut those carbon emissions.

Wild coffee plants in trouble

Researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens in the UK headed for the hills, figuratively speaking. The hills they were interested in are the highlands of Ethiopia, which are the birth place of coffee.

Arguably one of the greatest discoveries of all time and a momentous occasion that forever changed human history. In fact, unofficially of course, human history can be divided into the BC era – Before Coffee and the AD era, After de goat discovered De bean. The BC era was characterized by slow somewhat unproductive living, the AD era got humans fired up and going, going, going.

Counting coffee trees then and now

The research team went coffee tree spotting on the Boma Plateau in April 2012.

The Boma Plateau is a forested area, where the Coffea arabica still grows wild. And more importantly, a team of scientists trudged across the very same plateau in 1941, counting coffee trees.

So the 2012 team, was able to look at the state of play then and now, and they were comparing coffee trees with coffee trees.

In short, they found there were a lot less coffee trees in 2012.

And it wasn’t because the trees had been chopped down for firewood or agriculture. Baby trees (seedlings) were thin on the ground and the plants were flowering and fruiting sporadically.

They team concluded the coffee plants weren’t flourishing and the days of finding wild coffee plants on the Boma Plateau were numbered.

The scarcity of coffee trees was attributed to climate change, although disruptions to the birds and the bees, could also be contributing. (Birds are responsible for pollinating the coffee).

Counting coffee trees in the cloud

Using the data obtained in the field and historical records, the team used a big fancy supercomputer to “predict”, what would happen to the coffee plants as the world heated up.

All the scenarios they ran, predicted a bleak future for the wild Arabica plants.

Essentially there were very few places with the right mix of climatic conditions, that would allow the plants to thrive.

Mugs of coffee a distant memory

If the research is right – a steaming mug of coffee might just be a memory, by 2080.

Wild Coffea arabica is a species under threat.

You may be thinking, seeing plants in the wild is hardly like taking a trip to the game reserve to see a wild lion or elephant. What is the fuss ? The coffee farmers have got us covered. The coffee farmers will just plant more hardy varieties and everything will be fine.

Coffee farmers are wild at heart

Despite being a BIG commodity crop – there aren’t too many fancy breeding programmes, propagating strong coffee plants.

Farmed coffee plants are domesticated, but they are still pretty wild at heart. And these coffee plants are SENSITIVE to the weather.

So coffee production is likely to take a serious knock in a hotter world.

A productivity crisis

A hotter world is likely to mean less productivity, both for the coffee farmers and for humanity as a whole. No more meetings in coffee shops or pulling an all nighter with a little java juice !

NOTE : Caffeine will still be around, so we will still be able to get the buzz, without the flavour.

Coffee prices are already pretty high, as a combination of high demand and lower harvests is creating “shortages”. Remember price is driven by supply and demand. Experts already believe the supply/demand curve for coffee, is being influenced by climate change.

Forget the rainforest, save the coffee forests

Hopefully the powers that be are DOING SOMETHING about this pending disaster.

Forget the pandas – SAVE COFFEE ! It is a set of genes that I cannot live without.

If you’re a java junkie – do your bit to mitigate climate change.

Living on caffeine may not be possible, but living without a natural caffeine fix, is a frightening proposition. The future looks grim if a cup of coffee, becomes like liquid gold.

The Impact of Climate Change on Indigenous Arabica Coffee (Coffea arabica): Predicting Future Trends and Identifying Priorities. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (11): e47981 Aaron P. Davis, Tadesse Woldemariam Gole, Susana Baena, Justin Moat.

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Further reading

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