Thirteen of these species are “critically endangered,” 40 are “endangered" and 22 are considered “vulnerable.”
Sixty percent of coffee species are facing extinction due to climate change, loss of natural habitat, diseases and pests, researchers from Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens said Wednesday.
Africa and Madagascar are home to 75 of the world’s 124 wild coffee species. Scientists say that 13 of these species are “critically endangered,” 40 are “endangered,” and 22 are considered “vulnerable.”
“Among the coffee species threatened with extinction are those that have potential to be used to breed and develop the coffees of the future, including those resistant to disease and capable of withstanding worsening climatic conditions,” said lead research director Aaron Davis, referring to Arabica, a relative of a world favorite coffea arabica, which contributes to multimillion dollar industry.
Arabica, also known as “mountain coffee,” flourishes in high altitude and in shady, tree-studded farms. Wild deforestation and climate changes have brought random rainfalls which, in turn, make plants much more vulnerable to fungal diseases.
The threat of extinction puts 15 million African coffee workers at risk for unemployment.
Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN REd List of Threatened Species, said, “The climate change impacts on Arabica coffee raise serious environmental, economic and social concerns, particularly for the millions of smallholder farmers that rely on this crop for their livelihood. The numerous wild relatives of commercially grown crops such as Arabica coffee are essential to ensure the resilience of cultivated coffee in the face of climate change and other threats.”
Aaron Davis, said, “Targeted action is urgently required in specific tropical countries, particularly in Africa, to protect the future of coffee.”
Scientists are suggesting reforestation, further research into coffee varieties, pests, and diseases; conservation projects, nature reserves, or simply better management.
"We do not want to cause panic [with these studies], it's a call to action, a catalyst, to say: 'we may not need these resources immediately, but unless we start thinking about their conservation now, as we lose extinct species, our options decrease,” said Davis.