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Bees and beans vital for morning cuppa imperiled by warming earth: Study

12 September 2017

Pollinators such as bees play a vital role in the production of beans that end us as our morning cup of coffee. Rather pollinators are responsible for about 20 to 25 per cent of coffee production by increasing the plants' yield, according to Taylor Ricketts, co-author of a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and director of the Gund Institute for Environment at the University. Bees actually enhance quality of the beans by making their size more uniform.

But both pollinators and the areas where coffee can grow are imperiled by a warming planet. Global warming could cut coffee growing areas in Latin America by 88 per cent by 2050, according to the study.

"We've known for a while that climate change is going to mess with agriculture in a lot of ways," says Ricketts, reported. It will move the areas where both coffee and pollinators live but not necessarily in the same way.

"These are all individual species that happened to co-occur now," Ricketts says, but they each have different tolerances to heat. For example, a bee that is at the very edge of its heat tolerance won't follow coffee into warmer areas.

Latin America is the world's largest coffee-producer. Other coffee growing regions in Asia and Africa may suffer the same fate, the researchers said in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The predictions are based on a rise in global temperatures of 2.6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050.

About 25 million farmers in over 60 countries, depend on coffee cultivation with probably 100 million people involved in its production.

''There's more at stake here than my nice espresso in New York or Paris going to get more expensive. It threatens the primary livelihood of millions of people who are already vulnerable,'' Ricketts told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

''Getting coffee cultivation right is really important to conserving nature and developing rural communities. Aside from being everybody's favourite morning thing to do, it's got these big ramifications,'' said Ricketts.

(Read more: Climate change a buzzkill for coffee lovers)

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