What would the world look like without coffee? This is what some researchers are wondering now that they’ve looked at the impact of climate change and pollination on coffee bean plants.
For a recent study, a group of scientists wanted to examine how climate change caused geographic range shifts in pollinators and major crops (Imbach et al., 2017).
“Coffee production exemplifies this issue, because large losses in areas suitable for coffee production have been projected due to climate change and because coffee production is dependent on bee pollination,” the authors wrote in their report.
To assess their theories, they modeled the distributions of coffee and coffee pollinators under existing and future climates in Latin America. They discovered that the regions that will be best suited for growing coffee will be reduced in size by between 73 and 88 percent by 2050 across the potential warming scenarios. This is between 46 and 76 percent larger than previous global assessments.
The researchers also looked at bee richness (e.g., “positive coupling”) in the respective area. They discovered that the average bee richness is expected to decline between eight and 18 percent in areas considered to be suitable for growing coffee.
“Climate change can affect the geographic distribution of pollinators, and thus the effectiveness of pollination,” concluded the researchers in their report. “Therefore, coffee production will likely be affected by climate change in two ways: directly, through the effects of changes in temperature, rainfall, or extreme events on coffee production, and indirectly, through changes in pollination services.”
So what can be done about these concerns before the coffee industry is directly affected?
The researchers claim that producers should aim to exercise more “bee-friendly farm practices.” These practices include weed management (to reduce invasive species), reduced biocide use, and more plant diversity. The scientists also believe that better coffee management can help with the issue. Reducing plant stress, increasing water efficiency, and using drought and heat-stress-adapted varieties of coffee plants can help (“Climate change might cause a coffee crisis, but there’s still hope,” 2017).
“Such strategies would improve pollination and maximize benefits for farmers in areas of positive coupling, minimize impacts for those in areas of negative coupling, and compensate for the reduction in coffee suitability by improving pollination services in areas of decoupling,” the researchers concluded.
If all else fails, there is also the possibility that drones will one day help plants with pollination issues. But until then, we may be better off trying our hand at these preventative measures.