The world’s most popular coffee species are going extinct: Study

More than half of all existing wild coffee species are threatened with extinction, according to a study by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, West London, published in the science journal Science Advances on Wednesday .

Of 124 species of wild coffee, 75 are threatened by deforestation, global warming, and the spread of diseases and harmful species, according to this study conducted in several African forests, from Sierra Leone to Madagascar.

World coffee production currently rests on two species: arabica (about 60% of production) and robusta (40%). In addition to the direct threat to these two species, the wild varieties on which the improvement of their seed depends are also at risk.

“Breeders need wild varieties because they have the genes to grow coffee that is resistant to disease and climate change,” Dr. Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at Gardens, told AFP. from Kew.

From prolonged periods of drought to the spread of mold, there are many threats to coffee trees. Of the 75 threatened species identified by researchers, 13 are critically endangered, 40 are at risk, and 22 are vulnerable.

While the proportion of plants in the broad sense threatened with extinction is 22%, coffee is particularly at risk because of its high sensitivity to its environment.

“There are 100 million coffee growers in the world and if they lose their ability to produce coffee or make a profit, it creates huge socio-economic problems,” said Dr. Davis. “What must be avoided are movements of people whose way of life is no longer viable.”

Another study, published Wednesday by Kew Gardens researchers in the journal Global Change Biology, focuses on wild arabica. It shows that, taking climate change projections into account, this variety, on which trade worth $ 13.8 billion (€ 12.1 billion) depends, is also in danger. extinction.

“We are not trying to create panic (with these studies). It’s a call to action, we mean: + we may not need these resources immediately, but unless we start thinking about their conservation now, our options are rapidly diminishing + “, concluded Dr. Davis.

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