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Global warming could reduce Latin American coffee-growing areas by 88%
Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Global warming could reduce coffee-growing areas in Latin America — the world’s largest coffee-producing region — by as much as 88 per cent by 2050. That was the key finding of the first major study of climate change’s projected impacts on coffee, and the bees that help coffee to grow. The findings appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“Coffee is one of the most valuable commodities on earth, and needs a suitable climate and pollinating bees to produce well,” said Taylor Ricketts, director, Gund Institute for Environment, University of Vermont (UVM) and co-author of the study.

“This is the first study to show how both will likely change under global warming in ways that will hit coffee producers hard,” he added.

While other research has explored climate-coffee scenarios, no other study has explored the coupled effects of climate change on coffee and bees at the national or continental scale.

The study forecasts much greater losses of coffee regions than previous global assessments, with the largest declines projected in Nicaragua, Honduras and Venezuela.

“If there are bees in the coffee plots, they are very efficient and very good at pollinating, so productivity increases and also berry weight,” said lead author Pablo Imbach of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

“In the areas projected to lose coffee suitability, we wanted to know whether that loss could be offset by bees,” he added.

The study highlighted the importance of tropical forests, which are key habitats for wild bees and other pollinators.

While 91 per cent of the most suitable area for coffee in Latin America is currently within a mile of tropical forests, that is projected to increase to 97 per cent by 2050, meaning the conservation of those habitats will be crucial.

“We hope the models we have created to make these projections can help to target appropriate management practices such as forest conservation, shade adjustment and crop rotation,” said Lee Hannah, senior scientist, Conservation International, and a co-author of the study.

It was conducted with advanced modelling, spatial analysis and field data, and provided strategies to improve coffee growth and bee pollination for Latin American coffee farmers, increase bee habitats near coffee farms where bee diversity is expected to decrease, prioritise farming practices that reduce climate impacts on coffee production where bees are thriving, but where coffee suitability will decline and protect forests and maintain shade trees, windbreaks, live fences, weed strips and native plants that provide food, nesting and other materials to support pollinators.  

The research was supported by the International Climate Initiative, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research’s (CGIAR) Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.
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