The researchers came to their conclusions using computer modeling, and note that wild Arabica’s future is likely even bleaker than they predict as they did not include factors such as deforestation, disease, and declines in birds (key coffee dispersers) due to a lack of suitable data. As cultivated Arabica grows in the same environmental conditions as its threatened wild counterpart, climate change will likely impact our crops too.
“The extinction of Arabica coffee is a startling and worrying prospect,” writes RBC, Kew.
“The worst-case scenario, as drawn from our analyses, is that wild Arabica could be extinct by 2080. This should alert decision makers to the fragility of the species,” said study author Justin Moat in a statement.
But there’s still hope. The authors note that what we need to do now is work to conserve wild coffee species to protect their vital genetic diversity. They suggest adding more species to germplasm inventories, which store genetic resources of plants like seeds and tissues. At the moment, only 45 percent of coffee species are found in these inventories.
“African countries that both cultivate coffee and are home to wild coffee species in natural environments are well placed to develop and conserve their wild coffee resources,” the authors conclude. “They should be supported to do so by the international development and conservation communities.”