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Scientists forecast extinction of wild coffee plant due to climate change

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Changes in the world climate could cause almost all indigenous Arabica plants — crucial to the commercial production of coffee — to become extinct by 2080, according to researchers at Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens. Writing in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE earlier this week, the scientists describe a number of potential scenarios based on simulations of climate change in key areas, particularly southern Ethiopia. While the most conservative model shows a 38 percent reduction in suitable 'bioclimatic space' over the next 68 years, others veer close to 100 percent, and the researchers emphasize that additional factors, such as deforestation, have yet to be considered.

Arabica is not the only plant used in coffee production — the beans of the Robusta strain, which generally contain more caffeine, are popular in southeastern Europe and are used regularly in instant coffee. Still, as The Telegraph points out, Arabica accounts for roughly 70 percent of the global market, including virtually all fresh coffee sold in US chains such as Starbucks. According to the research paper, even if extinction is avoided, shifts in the location of the plants are likely to alter the taste of the resulting product, as are moves towards more tightly regulated cultivation, with farmers using watering and cooling equipment in an attempt to retain a suitable environment for their crop.