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Scientists have found that coffee benefits from the presence of bees to pollinate it, but say climate change could adversely affect this process.

“At a time when agricultural production is threatened by climate change, the ecosystem services provided by forests – in this case, pollination – can help farmers cope and adapt,” said Bruno Locatelli, an expert on ecosystem services and climate change adaptation at CIFOR and a co-author of the study.

Because Arabica coffee, which accounts for two-thirds of the world’s coffee production, is self-pollinating, technically it doesn’t need bees. However, the presence of bees, especially native species, gives coffee trees a boost. As the number of bee species – known as ‘species richness’ – found on a coffee farm increases, so does the farm’s productivity. The trees set more fruit, the fruit weight is higher, and yield is greater.

However, with climate change in Latin America, the places where coffee is grown and where bees thrive today could shift in future. In a region where 80 per cent of coffee is grown on plots of less than four hectares, that could have a big impact on small-scale, low-income farmers.

Areas currently suitable for coffee production in the region will shrink by 73 per cent to 88 per cent under scenarios of moderate to high warming, according to the study, which examined the impact of 19 climate variables on areas suitable for coffee crops and 39 bee species in Latin America.

Meanwhile, up to 30 per cent of areas suitable for coffee production in the future will be places where coffee is not currently cultivated, giving other farmers a chance to grow an important cash crop.

In 10 per cent to 22 per cent of future coffee-producing zones, coffee suitability will increase and the number of bee species will increase, an effect known as ‘positive coupling.’ That is especially true in Central America, the study found. However, the opposite – negative coupling, or a decrease in both coffee suitability and bee species richness – is likely to occur in 34 per cent to 51 per cent of future coffee-producing zones.

The research formed part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

For more information see the March 2018 issue of Coffee & Cocoa International.


For more information on this topic, please contact Bruno Locatelli at b.locatelli@cgiar.org.

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