Species On The Move

As climate change impacts habitats around the world, species are on the move, trying to adapt — and survive.

About This Species

Coffee, that sweet nectar of the gods, comes from the seeds of flowering coffee trees. They flourish in the "Coffee Belt:" an area of the equatorial zone between latitudes 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South. It includes 50 coffee-producing countries, including Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia and Indonesia. Those countries are known for rich soils, frequent rain and shaded sun—all key ingredients to successful coffee growth.

Climate change makes it harder to grow coffee

Coffee trees yield coffee beans, and climate change could make them harder to produce. Courtesy: Pexels.com

Coffee trees can live for 100 years, but are most productive between the ages of 7 and 20. The trees are covered in waxy leaves and the coffee cherries—the fruit whose seeds are the coffee beans—grow along the branches. 

An average tree produces about 10 pounds of coffee cherries each year, which yields about two pounds of beans.

Conservation Status

In recent years, climate change has hit coffee production hard. High temperatures, longer-than-usual droughts followed by periods of intense rainfall, more resilient pests and plant diseases have combined to reduce coffee supplies.

Between 2002-11, coffee production in India dropped by nearly 30 percent. There have been dramatic declines in Costa Rica and Ethiopia too.

The coffee berry borer, a grazing predator of coffee plants, has seen its habitat expand thanks to warmer temperatures, exposing more coffee trees to the pest.

Looking Forward

With continued increases in mean global temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns, scientists expect that coffee may no longer thrive in traditional coffee growing regions—but they may be replaced by other regions.

The seeds of coffee cherries are turned into coffee beans

Coffee trees need rich soil, shade and rain—all of which are impacted by climate change. Photo: Public domain

A study published in the journal PLOS-One in 2012 found climate change alone could cause wild Arabica coffee to go extinct well before the end of the century. Arabica coffee, which originated in the highlands of Ethiopia, has a very limited genetic stock. That makes it unlikely to to cope with the changes brought on by climate change, including pests and diseases. The study found that it's not just wild Arabica that is at risk—so too is plantation-grown coffee, which is how it is often grown in the Coffee Belt countries.

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