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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that pollinators such as bees are responsible for about 20 to 25 percent of coffee production by increasing the yield of coffee plants. Bees, said Taylor Ricketts, the director of the Gund Institute for the Environment at the University of Vermont, increase the quality of the beans by making their size more uniform. But, he added, climate change is threatening both pollinators and the areas where coffee can grow. His study is the first to model the impact of climate change on both coffee and pollinators. The team found that by 2050, climate change could reduce the amount of land suitable for growing coffee in Latin America by up to 88 percent. "We've known for a while that climate change is going to mess with agriculture in a lot of ways," says Ricketts. It will, he says, affect areas where both coffee and pollinators live, but not necessarily in the same way. For example, a bee at the edge of its heat tolerance won’t follow coffee into warmer areas. Most coffee growing areas will see a reduction in the number of bee species, the researchers found, but not all. About 35 to 41 percent of areas that are likely to become less suitable to growing coffee could see more bee diversity - perhaps offsetting part of the farmers’ losses. The opposite is true in 31 to 33 percent of future coffee distribution areas. "There is a whole lot more at stake here than, is my nice espresso in New York going to get more expensive?” says Ricketts. “Climate change is going to threaten this primary livelihood for millions of people in vulnerable communities all over the world." According to Ricketts, the blow to coffee farmers could be lessened by: Maintaining habitat for wild bees in coffee-growing areas; Growing coffee under shade trees; and, transitioning farmers to other crops in areas where it is no longer possible to grow coffee.

Posted September 12th, 2017