Climate Change Could Reduce Land Suitability for Growing Coffee in Latin America By 88 Percent By 2050

September 11, 2017

Future areas suitable for coffee production could experience a decrease in bee populations essential for coffee pollination

“The coupled effects of climate change on coffee and bees have not been examined in previous coffee-climate studies,” said Dr. Lee Hannah, senior scientist at Conservation International and a co-author of the study. “We hope the models we have created to make these projections can help to target appropriate management practices such as forest conservation and shade adjustment.”

“If there are bees in the coffee plots, they are very efficient and very good at pollinating, so productivity increases and also berry weight,” explained Pablo Imbach, a researcher at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and the lead author of the study, to Conservation International’s blog, Human Nature. “In the areas projected to lose coffee suitability, we wanted to know whether that loss could be offset by bees.”

The scientists found that in some areas, the number and diversty of bees would increase, potentially offsetting the negative impacts of climate change on coffee. Overall, they found that both coffee suitability and bee populations will decline.

Today, 91 percent of the most suitable area for coffee growing in Latin America is within 1600 meters of a tropical forest — important habitats for native pollinators. By 2050, this number will increase to 97 percent, meaning conservation of those habitats will be crucial for coffee growers.

The paper concludes with adaptation strategies that can improve coffee growth and bee pollination for Latin American coffee farmers through:

  1. Increasing bee habitats in locations of thriving coffee plants but where bee diversity is expected to decrease.
  2. Farm management that reduces the negative impacts of climate change on coffee production in locations of thriving bee populations but where suitability for coffee production will decrease.
  3. Forest conservation and landscape maintenance that includes shade trees, windbreaks, live fences, weed strips, and protection of native plants that provide food, nesting and other materials to support pollinators.

About Conservation International

Conservation International uses science, policy and partnerships to protect the nature people rely on for food, fresh water and livelihoods. Founded in 1987, Conservation International works in more than 30 countries on six continents to ensure a healthy, prosperous planet that supports us all. Learn more about Conservation International and its groundbreaking “Nature Is Speaking” campaign, and follow Conservation International’s work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

About the International Center for Tropical Agriculture

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture is a scientific research organization committed to sustainable food production and improving rural livelihoods in Africa, Asia and Latin America. As well as developing new techniques and approaches to make agriculture more profitable, competitive and sustainable, for 50 years CIAT has been a trusted provider of impartial advice on agricultural and environmental issues to governments and policymakers all over the world.