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, a study warns. The research is the first major study of impacts of impacts climate change on coffee and the bees that help coffee to grow. "Coffee is one of the most valuable commodities on earth, and needs a suitable climate and pollinating bees to produce well," said Taylor Ricketts, from the University of Vermont in the US. "This is the first study to show how both will likely change under global warming - in ways that will hit coffee producers hard," said Ricketts. 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. "Coffee provides the main income for millions of the rural poor, so yield declines would affect the livelihoods of those already vulnerable people," said Ricketts. The study also identified future coffee regions where the number and diversity of bees are likely to increase.
This could boost coffee productivity regionally, offsetting some negative climate impacts, the researchers said. "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 Pablo Imbach of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia. "In the areas projected to lose coffee suitability, we wanted to know whether that loss could be offset by bees," said Imbach, lead author of the study published in the journal PNAS. The study highlights 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 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 at Conservation International, a US-based nonprofit environmental organisation.
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