Global warming could reduce coffee growing areas in Latin America -- the world's largest coffee-producing region -- by as much as 88 percent by 2050. That's a key takeaway of the first major study of climate change's projected impact on coffee and bees, which help coffee to grow. help coffee grow. The findings are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
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. It forecasts much greater losses of coffee regions than previous global assessments, with the largest losses projected in Nicaragua, Honduras and Venezuela.
While the research suggests coffee suitability and bee populations will decline in Latin America, it does offer some good news. The scientists projected a slight increase in coffee suitability in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Costa Rica, mainly in mountainous areas where temperatures are expected to support coffee growing and more robust bee populations.
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 say.
The study highlights the importance of tropical forests, which are key habitats for wild bees and other pollinators. While 91 percent 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 percent by 2050, meaning conservation of those habitats will be crucial.
The study was conducted with advanced modelling, spatial analysis, and field data. It provides strategies to improve coffee growth and bee pollination for Latin American coffee farmers:
- Increase bee habitats near coffee farms where bee diversity is expected to decrease.
- Prioritize farming practices that reduce climate impacts on coffee production where bees are thriving, but where coffee suitability will decline.
- Protect forests and maintain shade trees, windbreaks, live fences, weed strips, and native plants that provide food, nesting and other materials to support pollinators.