Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Many coffee species threatened with extinction, scientists warn

This is what coffee looks like in case you have forgotten This is what coffee looks like in case you have forgotten
Cary Marshall | 20 January, 2019, 12:01

This new work builds on more than two decades of intensive coffee research at Kew. Arabica and robusta are under threat from climate change, and saving the wild coffee plants might be the key to saving your daily cup.

Scientists have described it as "worrying" that one in five of the world's plants for coffee, which is one of the most popular beverages around the world, is threatened with extinction. As climate change and disease risks escalate, wild coffee species offer a crucial resource for maintaining the world's coffee supply.

The researchers, whose work is published in the journal Science Advances, said their findings are a concern for Ethiopia in particular.

But with 60% of all wild coffee species threatened, the potential of such species may be short-lived.

The researchers called for a major commitment from countries that grow coffee, particularly African countries such as Ethiopia and South Sudan, to "develop and conserve their wild coffee resources [supported] by the worldwide development and conservation communities".

While some experts suggest we preserve coffee diversity in collections, the Kew Gardens study argues that the sustainability of coffee depends on conservation of these species where they grow, in protected areas and working with communities throughout their native distribution in Africa and Asia.

But with deforestation and a changing climate, which brings unpredictable rain, pests and fungal diseases, coffee farmers will be hit hard.

"As a coffee drinker you don't need to worry in the short term", assures Davis.

They found that almost a third of all wild Arabica species were grown outside conservation areas.

"It is likely that some of these species are threatened and that some could be extinct", they wrote.

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For comparison, six percent of hazelnuts and nine percent of pistachios face an extinction threat, in addition to about half of all wild tea and mango species.

Most wild coffee beans don't contain that much sugar - or caffeine either, for that matter. Beyond Africa, wild coffee is found in other tropical climates, including parts of India, Sri Lanka, and Australia.

By Somini Sengupta New York Times News Service Aaron Davis, a British botanist, has spent 30 years trekking across forests and farms to chronicle the fate of one plant: coffee.

The report concludes with an extinction risk assessment for Arabica coffee based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN Red List): "Endangered, with population reductions projected to be greater than 70% within a 63‐year window (2025-2088), based on a generation length of 21 years and using an index of population abundance". By better understanding-and being proactive-about the wild species, we may just find ways to brew up a brighter future for the coffee beans we love. Coffee seeds don't store well, unlike wild relatives of other crops such as wheat or maize.

Crop wild relatives are wild plants that are genetically related to cultivated crops.

What are scientists calling for?

The lion's share of the world's coffee trade rests on two coffee species: C. arabica and C. canephora, which is also known as robusta.

'What we're saying is 60% is just really high, that's a real wake-up call.

"We hope this new data will highlight species to be prioritised for the sustainability of the coffee production sector, so that appropriate action can be taken to safeguard the species", she said. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of stlucianewsonline.com, its sponsors or advertisers. This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries.

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