Climate change and coffee: assessing vulnerability by modeling future climate suitability in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico

Coffee production has long been culturally and economically important in Puerto Rico. However, since peaking in the late nineteenth century, harvests are near record lows with many former farms abandoned. While value-added markets present new opportunities to reinvigorate the industry, regional trends associated with climate change may threaten the ability to produce high-quality coffee. Here, we discuss the history of coffee in Puerto Rico, outline important bioclimatic parameters, and model current and future habitat suitability using statistically downscaled climate data. Model projections suggest that warming trends may surpass important temperature thresholds during the coming decades. Under high (A2) and mid-low (A1B) emission scenarios for 2011–2040, Puerto Rico is projected to exceed mean annual temperature parameters for growth of Coffea arabica. Warming and drying trends may accelerate after 2040 and could result in top producing municipalities losing 60–84% of highly suitable growing conditions by 2070. Under the A2 scenario, Puerto Rico may only retain 24 km2 of highly suitable conditions by 2071–2099. High temperatures and low precipitation levels can result in diminished quality and yields, as well as increased exposure and sensitivity to certain insects and diseases. The climate data and models used are based on best current understanding of climate and emission interactions with results best interpreted as projected climate trends rather than predictions of future weather. Planning, innovation, and adaptation provide promising avenues to address current and future socioecological challenges while building a model of sustainable and resilient coffee production in Puerto Rico and throughout the region.

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Puerto Rico

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