Top coffee species under threat from extinction

Scientists are warning that several of the world’s most popular coffee bean species are under threat of extinction thanks to climate change. Up to 60 percent of wild coffee species have been identified as being at high risk of extinction due to an increasing number of droughts and fast-spreading fungal diseases due to world-wide rising temperatures.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in the UK, found that coffee plants require a very specific environment to grow, and those environments are increasingly at risk thanks to human interference.

"The important thing to remember is that coffee requires a forest habitat for its survival," senior researcher Aaron Davis said. "With so much deforestation going on around the world, wild coffee species are being impacted at an alarming rate."

“As temperatures increase and rainfall decreases, the suitable area for growing diminishes.”

The report concluded that unless there is a collaboration between governments and commercial producers to protect the plants and stockpile seeds, the impact on the worldwide coffee industry could be dire. While there are plenty of farmed coffee trees, it is cross-breeding with wild plants that allows coffee producers to develop plants with natural resistance to predators and diseases and keep the gene pool as wide as possible. Without these protections, the average cup of coffee could end up costing more and tasting worse.

Of the 124 types of wild coffee, 75 are at risk of extinction and almost 40 of those species grow in areas that have no conservation protection. Ethiopia has taken steps to protect wild coffee by creating three new protected areas, but the greatest risk to wild coffee is in Madagascar and Tanzania.