For many people, functioning in the morning is impossible without at least one cup of coffee. But a study published recently in the journal PLoS One has found that the Arabica coffee bean may go extinct by the end of the century. Such an occurrence could be tragic for the world's favorite beverage and the second largest export after oil.
The Arabica blend of coffee is the preferred drink by much of the world's coffee drinkers, and it could go extinct due to climate change by 2080. The Arabica is a fragile plant and, unlike the hardier Coffea Canephora, it lacks the genetic diversity needed to cope with climate change, disease, and pests.
Researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens in the United Kingdom and the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum in Ethiopia created a first-of-its-kind computer model for the Arabica plant. The study looked at simply the survival of the plant, not the quality of the beverage that the plant would produce. They found that their worst-case scenario meant that the plant would be virtually entirely wiped out by 2080. At best, as long as the earth continues on his current trek, 65 percent of the global crop would be wiped out during the same time period. However, the models were all conservative and did not account for the wide swaths of deforestation that has already taken place in the forests of Ethiopia and South Sudan, changes in flowering times or the patterns of birds, which disperse the seeds, or pests or diseases.
Already, astute coffee drinkers may note that the beverage's costs are at a 30-year high because the damage is already being felt.
The study outlines way that the Arabica coffee plant can be salvaged. In particular, certain areas could serve as de-facto storehouses for wild varieties of Arabica coffee.
"As part of a future-proofing exercise for the long-term sustainability of Arabica production it is essential that the reserves established in Ethiopia to conserve Arabica genetic resources are appropriately funded and carefully managed," Tadesse Waterman-Cole, one of the study authors, said in a statement.