Coffee lovers, here’s one more reason to savor that morning cup o’ joe. Research shows 60 percent of coffee species found in the wild could soon go extinct.
In a new study published in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday, researchers at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens say factors putting the future of coffee at risk include climate change, deforestation, droughts, and plant diseases.
According to the study, a collaboration between scientists from the UK and Ethiopia, out of 124 types of wild coffee, 75 are at risk of extinction. About 35 of the 124 species grow in areas with no conservation protections.
“The important thing to remember is that coffee requires a forest habitat for its survival,” Aaron P. Davis, head of coffee research at Kew, who co-led the work, told CNN. “With so much deforestation going on around the world, wild coffee species are being impacted at an alarming rate.”
The future looks especially grim for arabica, one of the most popular kinds of coffee for commercial production. Previous research has shown that wild Arabica could be extinct by 2080. The arabicas grown in the world’s coffee plantations are from very limited genetic stock and are unlikely to have the flexibility required to cope with climate change and other threats, such as pests and diseases.
Davis said targeted action is urgently needed in specific tropical countries, particularly in Africa and particular in forested areas which are being hit hard by climate change.
The study urges governments and commercial producers to increase protections for coffee species and stockpile more seeds.
Another recommendation for ensuring a brighter future for coffee involves more focus on the the less common types of coffee. Preserving a diverse crop of wild coffee plants is useful for developing commercial coffee that’s resistant to changing climates and pests, according to the study. To create genetically modified plants, researchers need to preserve diverse coffee genes.
The study’s findings are not just important for coffee drinkers. “There are many countries which depend on coffee for the … bulk of their export earnings,” Davis told Reuters. “It’s estimated there are 100 million people producing coffee in farms around the world.”
Ethiopia, for example, is the natural birthplace of wild Arabica coffee and Africa’s largest coffee exporter. Around 15 million Ethiopians work in coffee production and annual exports have an estimated value of a $1 billion, according to Reuters.
The country has taken steps to preserve biodiversity through maintaining forest-based coffee farming systems and minimize coffee farmers’ vulnerability to climate change by launching initiatives such as the Yayu Forest Coffee Project, which encourages farmers to plant coffee inside forests, creating a cash crop while protecting precious woodlands.