12 September, 2017
Researchers have estimated that climate change could reduce coffee growing areas in Latin America - the world's largest coffee-producing region - by as much as 88 per cent by 2050.
"Coffee is one of the most valuable commodities on Earth, and needs a suitable climate and pollinating bees to produce well", said study co-author Taylor Ricketts, director of the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment.
"In September, a report from the nonprofit Climate Institute concluded that the area around the world fit for coffee production would decrease by 50% due to climate change", the essay declared. It threatens the primary livelihood of millions of people who are already vulnerable, " Ricketts told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Their growing and production rates are expected to rise in mountainous areas whose temperatures can support a robust bee population and coffee growing.
"Getting coffee cultivation right is really important to conserving nature and developing rural communities".
In other words, climate effects on bees as pollinators could be either positive or negative, and therefore could either aid or hinder coffee production.
"We find no evidence for an overall trend in disease risk in coffee-growing regions of Colombia from 1990 to 2015, therefore, while weather conditions were more conducive to disease outbreaks from 2008 to 2011, we reject the climate change hypothesis". These "biodiversity hotspots" will also be impacted by a warming planet.
Researchers suggested that rising temperatures could actually increase bee population and diversity in other areas is in fact likely to increase - but only because mountainous areas now unsuitable for coffee will become warmer.
Prioritize farming practices that reduce climate impacts on coffee production where bees are thriving, but where coffee suitability will decline.
The study also highlights the importance of tropical forests for bees and other key pollinators.
But climate change is threatening both pollinators and the areas where coffee can grow. "This is the first study to show how both will likely change under global warming - in ways that will hit coffee producers hard". For example, a bee that is at the very edge of its heat tolerance won't follow coffee into warmer areas.
Unlike coffee plants, bees that pollinate the coffee can spread to cooler areas north or south of the tropics, as well as uphill. "Whether they'll taste good to the consumer is up in the air", he said.
"I think other crops are in less dire straits because they grow in a place where there's a lot of land to their north and to their south and uphill", said Ricketts.
"The trick is to see them coming so there's time to adapt", Ricketts added.