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REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Biggest producer of coffee could see bean-growing land shrink nearly 90% by 2050

The news isn’t getting any better for the future of coffee. Several studies have already predicted that climate change could halve the amount of farmland worldwide suitable for growing coffee by 2050, mainly because of increasing temperatures. Now, an ecological model of Latin America, the biggest producer, suggests even greater declines: Habitat for coffee could shrink by 88%, with particularly large losses in the lowlands of Nicaragua, Honduras, and Venezuela. The researchers also examined how future climate will impact the domesticated honey bee and 38 other bee species that pollinate coffee plants and boost yields. Although conditions will improve for pollinators on up to 22% of the future growing area for coffee—generally higher elevation areas, such as in Mexico—as much as 51% of the coffee-growing area will have fewer bee species, and that will likely dent yields, the researchers report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. What can growers do? The study suggests they may need to cater to their bee populations by minimizing use of pesticides and keeping a diversity of native plants to provide other food for bees.