Get It While You Can: The World’s Coffee Supply Is Now Endangered

Don't be surprised if you hear your barista announce last call for coffee in the coming years. Experts say that 60 percent of the 124 known species of coffee plants are on the verge of extinction thanks to the negative effects of climate change on the world's flora. 

A recent study found that 75 wild species of coffee are threatened with extinction, another 35 are in better standing and there isn't enough information to make a call about the remaining 14 species. Additionally, 28 percent of wild coffee species grow outside of protected areas and only half of them are represented in seed banks.

Now, if you're a big coffee buff, you know that only two species are used to make beverages: Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta. Arabica coffee grows naturally in Ethiopia and its population could shrink by 50 percent within the next 70 years due to climate change.

"Given the importance of Arabica coffee to Ethiopia, and to the world, we need to do our utmost to understand the risks facing its survival in the wild," Dr. Tadesse Woldemariam Gole, of the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum in Addis Ababa, told BBC.

But if there are only two species that are used to produce coffee beverages, we can just save them, right? Not quite. Without those 120+ species of wild coffee, it's unlikely that cultivated coffee can survive. Wild arabica provides much of the seeds for coffee cultivation, and the genes of other species are often used to cultivate arabica and robusta crops that can resist emerging diseases and survive climate change.

"If it wasn't for wild species we wouldn't have as much coffee to drink in the world today," said Dr Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. "Because if you look at the history of coffee cultivation, we have used wild species to make the coffee crop sustainable."

With that in mind, experts are saying coffee farming needs to improve its sustainability fast if we want still be drinking java in the future.


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