Coffee beans are seen at a Nairobi Java House outlet in Nairobi January 21, 2012 (Photo : Reuters)
A new study by researchers from London's Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew have discovered that rising global temperatures and changes in seasonal conditions could cause the most popular coffee species, Arabica, to become extinct by 2080.
However, coffee consumers shouldn't worry. According to the National Geographic, commercial growers use domestic plants to make the coffee consumers around the world drink and the study is only about wild coffee plants.
Wild plants do, however, prove greater genetic diversity, which helps plantations defeat threats of pests and disease, the Telegraph reported. Aaron Davis, the head of Kew Garden's coffee research program, told the National Geographic, "Arabica's history is punctuated by problems with diseases, pests, and productivity problems-and growers have always gone back to the wild and used genetic diversity to address them."
According to the researchers, the only way to prevent the species extinction in the wild is to discover new areas where Arabica can grow. Arabica, one of two main types of cultivated coffee, grows naturally in the mountains of Ethiopia and South Sudan.
The Telegraph reported that it is the most popular coffee bean "accounting for 70 percent of the global market including all fresh coffee sold in high street chains and supermarkets in the US and most of Europe."
Justin Moat, an author of the report, told the Telegraph, "The worst case scenario, as drawn from out analyses, is that wild Arabica could be extinct by 2080. This should alert decision makers to the fragility of the species."
The study, lead by Davis, was published in the Public Library of Science ONE journal earlier this week. According to the Telegraph, it used computer modeling of three different climate change scenarios to predict how Arabica coffee would be affected.
Davis' study concluded that at least 65 percent of Arabica locations would become unsuitable by 2080 and at worst, nearly 100 percent. The lead researcher and his colleagues visited Arabica growing Boma Plateau in South Sudan and found the crop in poor health, leading to the conclusion that the species could die out as soon as 2020.
Davis told the Telegraph, "Arabica can only exist in a very specific pace with a very specific number of other variables. It is mainly temperature but also the relationship between temperature and seasonality-the average temperature during the wet season for example."
According to the researcher, rapid climate change could force caffeine farms to move "plantations 50m every decade to survive." The study added that estimates found were "conservative" because deforestation had not been taken into account.
The other major coffee species popular around the world, Robusta, is a stronger brew that is often consumed in espresso and Turkish coffee, the National Geographic reported. The species is slightly better at adjusting to climate change. However, it is unlikely to become as popular as Arabica.
Davis told the National Geographic, "I can guarantee that we will not all be happy just drinking Robusta. As the name suggests, it's quite strong. Most people don't like the taste, and it has up to twice as much caffeine as Arabica. It's simply not the same drink. If we lost Arabica, I think large segments of the coffee market would disappear."