Could Coffee go Extinct?

The beans that made your morning cup of coffee are probably one of the two most common species: Arabica or Robusta. Those are the most commercially used, however they are only two out of the hundreds of inter-related species of the coffee plant in the world.

There are approximately 124 types of wild coffee in the world, 60% of those are now classified according to the IUCN Red List standards as being under the threat of extinction due to deforestation, climate change, and the spread and severity of fungal pathogens and pests. Scientists have discovered that it is more difficult and more expensive to keep coffee seeds alive in storage banks compared to other plants, which is why focusing on saving coffee’s natural environment is key. Some of the coffee species assessed have not been seen in the wild for more than 100 years, and it is possible that some may already be extinct. Researchers estimate that, based on climate change alone, the natural population of Arabica is estimated to be reduced by 50% or more by 2088.

Yayu, southwest Ethiopia. Coffee nursery with forest coffee production (background).

Countries like Ethiopia have launched the Yayu Forest Coffee Project, encouraging farmers to plant coffee inside forests, creating a cash crop while protecting precious woodlands.

Coffee is something many of us (including yours truly) can’t live without. By better understanding – and being proactive – about the wild species, we may just find ways to brew up a brighter future for the coffee beans we love.


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