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Baseline Data for the Conservation of Coffee Species

A project providing baseline data for the conservation and sustainability of coffee species, including the crop species, Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee) and Coffea canephora (robusta). Outputs include conservation assessments, ecological niche modeling and climate change analyses.
Predicted distribution of Coffea arabica based on herbarium specimen data for the year 2080. Programme MaxEnt. Analysis by Justin Moat and Susana Baena.

The genus Coffea (coffee) contains the two main species used in the production of the beverage coffee: C. arabica (Arabica coffee) and C. canephora (robusta coffee). Coffee is the world’s most important commodity after oil, and provides a livelihood for at least 25 million farmers worldwide. There are c. 125 species of Coffea, occurring naturally throughout the Old World Tropics.

The project Baseline Data for the Conservation of Coffee Species plays a vital role in the sustainable development of coffee genetic resources by providing key data for in situ and ex situ conservation of wild coffee species. As a first step towards providing critical baseline data we produced a new taxonomic synopsis for Coffea in 2006 (Davis et al., 2006), which includes basic taxonomic data (author, place of publication, type specimen), main literature references, distribution, notes on ecology, and conservation assessments. Ongoing systematic and taxonomic work is being undertaken in order to maintain the biological integrity of the data.

The other major resource linked to this project is a specimen database of wild coffee species, containing c. 7,000 records. The database contains geo-referenced specimen data from all major herbaria, including electronic capture of specimens from the entire range of Coffea. The database is linked to a Geographical Information System (GIS), which has the capability to produce accurate distribution maps (recorded and predicted), conservation assessments, and ecological profiles. The data has also been used to generate future models of distribution under various climate change scenarios.

Ongoing work includes the production of full IUCN conservation assessments, predictive mapping, ecological profiling, and climate change distribution predictions.

This project is a joint initiative between Kew and the National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise, in collaboration with partners in Africa, and Madagascar.

Project partners and collaborators


National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise: Dr Piet Stoffelen


Université de Yaoundé I: Prof. Bonaventure Sonké


Ethiopian Coffee Forest Forum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Dr Tadesse Woldemariam Gole


East African Herbarium, National Museums of Kenya: Dr Quentin Luke


Botany Department, University of Dar es Salaam: Dr Esther F. Mvungi 


World Coffee Research (WCR): Dr Tim Schilling

Project funders


Bentham Moxon - 2007, 2009, 2010

Annex material

Key papers published since 2006:

  1. Davis, A.P., Govaerts, R., Bridson, D.M. & Stoffelen, P. (2006). An annotated taxonomic conspectus of the genus Coffea (Rubiaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 152 (4): 465-512.
  2. Sonke, B., Nguembou, K.C. & Davis, A.P. (2006). A new dwarf Coffea (Rubiaceae) from southern Cameroon. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 151 (3): 425-430.
  3. Davis, A.P. & Rakotonasolo, F. (2008). A taxonomic revision of the baracoffea alliance: nine remarkable Coffea species from western Madagascar. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 158: 355-390.
  4. Davis, A.P. (2010). Six species of Psilanthus transferred to Coffea (Coffeeae, Rubiaceae). Phytotaxa 10: 41–45.
  5. Davis, A.P., Gole, T.W., Baena, S. & Moat, J. 2012. The impact of climate change on indigenous Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica): predicting future trends and identifying priorities. PLOS ONE 7: e47981. 

Total number of papers published since 2006: 12