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Global warming puts Wild Arabica coffee plants at risk

Arabica coffee beans may be hard to come by.

Crucial stock of genetic diversity could be lost to climate change

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Coffee drinkers shouldn’t their favorite beverage for granted, according to researchers with London’s Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. Global warming could lead to the extinction of wild Arabica coffee plants well before the end of the century.

The study shows that climate change will cut Arabica habitat between 65 and 99 percent, even without factoring in the large-scale deforestation that has occurred in the highland forests of Ethiopia and South Sudan (the natural home of Arabica coffee).

The scientists also identified core habitat areas that could be used as preserves to try and maintain a population of Arabica coffee plants.

Wild Arabica is important to the entire coffee industry as a stock of genetic diversity. The plants are very sensitive to temperature and moisture in very localized microclimates, and coffee harvests have already suffered in recent years, with coffee prices soaring to their highest level in 30 years.

The Arabicas grown in the world’s coffee plantations are from very limited genetic stock and are unlikely to have the flexibility required to cope with climate change and other threats, such as pests and diseases. Continue reading

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East Africa drought, famine linked to climate change

Young boys working in a newly cropped field in Africa. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

Forecast calls for below average rains this spring and early summer

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY— Spring rains in the eastern Horn of Africa are projected to begin late this year and yield less moisture than average, according to a study led by the U.S. Geological Survey. Long-term climate research shows that droughts around the Horn are linked with global warming, as the Indian and west-central Pacific have warmed faster than other areas, resulting more rain over the oceans, with drier air descending over east Africa.

“Rainfall projections were estimated by looking very closely at all the prior droughts from March–May since 1979 in the eastern Horn of Africa,” said USGS scientist Chris Funk, who led the research. “We found that sea surface temperatures in the western/central Pacific and the Indian oceans are key drivers of rainfall during that time period. So we compared sea surface temperatures from past years to March 2012, and developed an updated rainfall forecast for this spring season.”

Based on data from previous drought, the study concludes that, from March to May, the rains are expected to total only 60 to 85 percentage of the average rainfall in this region. This is a significant deterioration compared to earlier forecasts. Continue reading

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