Climate Change’s Impact on Pollinators and Usable Land for Coffee to Grow Worsens

Pollinators, coffee beans and the usable land for coffee to grow on are all being threatened by climate change more than ever before, a new study says. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first of its kind to examine climate change’s effect on coffee and pollinators like bees that are responsible for producing the coffee beans.

Pollinators are responsible for 20-25% of coffee production, by way of bees improving the quality of the beans and increasing production. However, by 2050 the amount of usable land to make coffee will decrease in Latin America, especially in Nicaragua, Honduras and Venezuela, by up to 88%.

Taylor Ricketts, the director of the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Environment, told The Two-Way), “We’ve known for a while that climate change is going to mess with agriculture in a lot of ways,” adding that climate change will make it more difficult forbees and coffee beans to co-exist in the same areas. The study’s researchers predict about 34-51% of areas will decrease the ability to grow coffee but become better suitable for bees to live.

The study found areas that are suitable for coffee production will decrease 73–88% by 2050 due to global warming, which is a decrease of 46–76% compared to prior calculations. Pollinators will then decrease by 8–18%. The study did find that bee population and land usable for coffee will both increase 10–22% in coffee-suitable areas, but the decrease of coffee suitability and bee richness is greater at 34–51%.

Ricketts points out this issue will affect millions of coffee farmers around the world, particularly those who live in underdeveloped areas. “There is a whole lot more at stake here than, is my nice espresso in New York going to get more expensive? Climate change is going to threaten this primary livelihood for millions of people in vulnerable communities all over the world.”
Nonetheless, pollination will continue despite this threat. The study found areas suitable for coffee production will likely still host at least five species of bees. However, studies like this will help coffee farmers tackle this issue with practices like crop rotation, forest conservation and shade adjustment. US Coffee is proud to support local coffee roasters and third wave coffee, and continues to support corporate social responsibility and eco-friendly incentives.

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