At least 60 percent of the wild species of coffee in 2019 is under threat of extinction, and 45 percent in biological collections. Researchers have noted that wild relatives of Arabica and Robusta can have important characteristics like resistance to climate change or pests, and their disappearance reduces the possibility of adapting the sector is already vulnerable to these threats.
The article was published in Science Advances.
Arabica (Coffea arabica) and Robusta (Coffea canephora) are 60 and 40 percent of the coffee market, respectively (a third species, Coffea liberica is only a small share of the world market). Climate change, disease like coffee rust caused by Hemileia vastatrix fungus, and Fusarium and coffee pests like the coffee beetle Hypothenemus hampei represent commercial varieties, is not characterized by a great genetic diversity, growing threat.
Resilience to a changing climate, diseases and pests when it is found in many of the 124 wild coffee species, not yet used in agriculture, but, as noted by Aaron Davis (Aaron Davis) of the British Royal Botanic gardens at Kew and his colleagues, the conservation status of these plants and the risks are not well understood. Meanwhile, when one of these wild species was Robusta coffee, which, in particular, more resistant to rust and coffee for only 150 years became the second most important commercial variety. Therefore, the authors believe that the neglected wild species of coffee is not worth it.
The group of Davis has applied the criteria the risk of extinction, set by the red book of the International Union for conservation of nature (IUCN), to all 124 well-known types of coffee. According to their calculations, 75 of the 124 species, or 60 percent, are already under threat of extinction according to the criteria of the red book: the researchers note that this is one of the highest rates for plants. In the category of endangered species was, in particular, the wild Arabica. 10 species are on the brink of extinction, and 22 only vulnerable. 35 species fell into the category of low risk, and 14 species to assess the threat did not work because of lack of information. Nine of these 14 species hadn’t been seen since 1940, and five of them are known only by herbarium specimens collected before 1900 — probably, these species are already extinct.
The researchers then analyzed the Botanical collections of scientific institutes and other organizations: only 55 percent of all wild species of coffee was in the collection of seed and biomaterial necessary for the preservation of the species, their study and potential use in breeding or genetic editing. Existing reserves, national parks and other protected areas at least partially protect 72 per cent of all species.
The authors note that the key threat to most wild species of coffee remains the reduction of its habitat due to deforestation, agriculture and livestock. They believe that the current efforts to protect wild coffee in biological collections and natural conditions are not enough and the coffee industry needs to make it one of its priorities.