From: Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published July 30, 2013 06:05 AM

Climate change has the potential for significant impacts on coffee

An inconvenient truth is not what most people want to hear before they've had their first cup of coffee in the morning. Our coffee break is "me time," and we want to enjoy it. If the temperature is too high, put some ice in your cup.

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But for some 26 million people around the world who make it their business to produce our coffee, change is impossible to ignore.

Arabica coffee, which makes up about 70% of the 1.6 billion cups of coffee the world drinks every day, is especially sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and rainfall. Too much rain when the plants are in flower and pollination is dramatically disrupted. Too little rain while the berries are forming and they might shrivel up on the branch. Wild arabica coffees evolved to grow best in tropical, forested mountain landscapes. The slightly cooler temperatures up in the mountains, along with the unique mitigating effect that forest cover has on soil type and humidity, create a specific ecosystem niche in which arabica coffee plants thrive.

In recent years, a combination of higher temperatures, long cycles of drought with bouts of erratic, excessive rainfall, and deforestation threatens both wild and cultivated arabica coffee species.

On top of this, a devastating epidemic of a plant disease called la rolla, or leaf rust, is taking an enormous toll on coffee harvests around the world, with some coffee producing nations declaring a state of emergency. Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and India, three of the top fifteen coffee producing countries in the world, have all experienced sharp declines in coffee yields. Peru alone is feeling the impacts of la rolla on about 40% of its coffee crop this year, with other nations experiencing similar or worse potential losses.

Coffee plantation photo via Shutterstock.

Read more at ENN Affiliate Mongabay.

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