2.2 A bitter pill - Coffee production, deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution - Environmental ScienceBites (2023)

ecosystem degradation

Amanda L Varcho

Make beer. to drink. Sigh. A cup of coffee in the morning is a routine habit for many people around the world. Coffee is the second most popular drink in the world after water. What is the cost of producing enough coffee to meet growing demand?
2.2 A bitter pill - Coffee production, deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution - Environmental ScienceBites (1)

Coffee is the second most tradable in the worldMerchandise🇧🇷 This $10 billion industry is not benign because there are many environmental and environmental problems that result from coffee production.1It is almost certain that a square inch of rainforest has been destroyed for every cup of coffee consumed.2The accumulation of chemicals in the soil and the loss of shade in the forests are consequences of massive coffee production. It leads to chemicalsflow awaythe pollution of rivers, the death of terrestrial and aquatic animals, soil erosion and soil degradation. Once lush rainforests are transformed into arid landscapes, permanently altering their ecological balance.ecosystem.

The exploitation of coffee leads to massivelogging🇧🇷 There are two types of coffee plants, those that grow in the sun (Figure 2) and those that grow in the shade. The coffee tree that grows in the sun has been pruned to produce nearly three times as much coffee as the shade version. Increased production of sun-grown coffee plants leads to greater loss of rainforest. In the 1950s about 15% of the Earth's surface was covered by rainforest, today it is only 6% rainforest.2Furthermore, the remaining 6% of rainforests could be destroyed in 40 years, as over 200,000 acres are burned every day to clear land for agricultural and industrial uses.3

2.2 A bitter pill - Coffee production, deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution - Environmental ScienceBites (2)

Deforestation reduces thisbiodiversityof wild animals and plants. these cuthabitatsthey are disturbed and unfit for the above species (if any) to thrive, as only a few species can survive habitat destruction and loss. With the loss of forested areas, air humidity decreases and soil and foliage composition change (Figure 3). The widespread practice of burning forests and then cultivating the land alters the Earth's surface temperature and soil chemical composition.3The forest canopy no longer offers protection from the sun and the ground is devoid of rotting foliage. This combination allows previously trapped moisture to escape, leaving the soil warmer and drier. The balance of organisms in the soil ecosystem, which includes termites, nematodes, earthworms,bacteria, and then the mushrooms are changed.4Finally, the chemical composition of an agricultural system that replaced the rainforest no longer supports the same balance of plants and organisms. This contributes to other negative environmental impacts.4

2.2 A bitter pill - Coffee production, deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution - Environmental ScienceBites (3)
Figure 3a. The demand for coffee continues to grow. This makes this popular beverage the second most traded product in the world.

Diagram by Bamse, 2007. CC BY-SA 3.0

2.2 A bitter pill - Coffee production, deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution - Environmental ScienceBites (4)
Figure 3b. Although there are 10 different types of coffee plants, two main types are grown in the tropical regions of the world: Coffea robusta and Coffea arabica.

Brhaspati Chart, 2007. Public domain

2.2 A bitter pill - Coffee production, deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution - Environmental ScienceBites (5)
Figure 3c. Tropical rainforests are found around the equatorial regions of the world.

Hansen diagram, M. C. et al., 2008. Public domain

bodenErosionis another by-product of deforestation. When natural ecosystems (eg tropical rainforests) are permanently converted to arable land, valuable soil organic components such as soil carbon are lost. 🇧🇷In temperate climate agriculture, soil organic matter losses are most rapid in the first 25 years of cultivation, but in tropical soils these losses can occur within 5 years after conversion.4

Fertilizers used on coffee plants release nitrite into nearby water sources, depleting the oxygen supply and killing aquatic life. The once rich soil is losing healthMonocultureRingalters the pH and balance of nutrients in the soil. With monoculture, only a single dominant crop is grown without crop rotation. For a sustainable and functional lifeagricultural ecosystem, certain factors such as depth and mass, mineral density, salinity and nutrients must be maintained.5In these tropical coffee regions, the opposite of a sustainable agroecosystem occurs. Without crop rotation, nutrients cannot restore the soil and it is considered useless for production. When soil is fully exposed to direct sun and heat, it dries out, loses its density, and is eroded by wind and water.Sedimentfrom erosion flows into water sources and affects both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.6Soil particles also increase air pollution as wind erosion alters atmospheric conditions andAir conditioned🇧🇷 These erosive processes leave behind hectares of land that were previously occupied by the jungle.inhospitable, dry and depleted dirt.

Water pollution, mainly in the form ofeutrophication, occurs due to the dumping of waste and fertilizer runoff into water sources. Coffee produces a huge amount of waste, “57% of coffee beans are impurities that, when discarded, destroy the fauna of rivers and streams and harm people”.1Coffee harvesting begins with the process of separating the usable coffee bean from the surrounding pulp. A whole coffee cherry consists of the outer layers and the inner coffee bean. These are soaked and fermented, breaking the shell of the bean and leaving a mushy, slimy residue once the inside of the bean is removed. This leftover organic matter is then dumped into nearby rivers and streams, where its decomposition consumes available oxygen and kills aquatic life.1Although there are anti-dumping laws from various governments, enforcement of the laws is ineffective. HardpesticidesUsing it for coffee production also contributes to environmental pollution. In 2005, 5 million tons of pesticides were applied to crops worldwide.7Pesticide use will only increase as target species become more tolerant of chemicals. Aquatic ecosystems continue to be negatively affected by groundwater pollutionpollution, removal of coffee by-products and disposal of pesticides.

2.2 A bitter pill - Coffee production, deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution - Environmental ScienceBites (6)

Coffee production alters the rainforest ecosystems, which negatively affects the plant and animal species that inhabit it. Globally, monoculture cultivation leads to deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution. Changes in soil composition due to agricultural land use cause moisture to evaporate, lack of crop rotation causes nutrients to be depleted without replacement, and direct sunlight dries out the soil. Chemical pollutants and physical pollutants are increasing in rivers and water bodies, altering aquatic ecosystems. The sparse area of ​​rainforest continues to decline rapidly. More sustainable agricultural and land use practices will be needed as coffee consumption is unlikely to decline in the near future.


  1. Lee, JR, (1997). Coffee exports from Costa Rica. TED Case Studies: Coffee and the Environment. obtained fromhttp://www1.american.edu/ted/coffee.htm
  2. Lee, J. (2014) How coffee is helping deforestation in our rainforests. Be green today. obtained fromhttp://blog.goinggreentoday.com/cómo-el-café-ayuda-en-la-deforestación-de-nuestras-selvas-lluviosas/
  3. NASA Earth Observatory. (2014). Preserve tropical forests. Earth Observatory. obtained from http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Deforestación/deforestación_update5.php
  4. Matson, PA, et al. (1997). Agricultural Intensification and Ecosystem Characteristics, Ciência, 277(5325): 504-409.
  5. Gliessman, S.R., (2001). Agroecosystem Sustainability: Developing Practical Strategies, Washington DC, CRC Press LLC.
  6. Fearnside, PM (2006). Fragile soils and impacts of deforestation: the justification of standing forest environmental services as a development paradigm in Latin America. pg. 158-171. In: D.A. Posey and M.J. Balick (ed.) Human impacts in the Amazon: the role of traditional ecological knowledge in conservation and development. Columbia University Press, New York, USA 366 pp.
  7. McAllister, L.M. (2005). Environmental Problems in Latin America and the Caribbean, 207-230. Public Ministry and Environmental Protection in Brazil, Torre, A. et al., Washington, D.C., World Bank.
  8. Goal. (2008). Roasted coffee beans. [Photograph]. obtained fromWikimedia Commons.public domain.
  9. ben3john. (2012). Arabic coffee from Anakkara. [Photograph]. obtained from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0.
  10. TAYLOR, Simon (1772). arabica coffee [Etching with watercolor]. Welcome library #25333i. obtained fromWikimedia Commons. CC-BY 4.0.
  11. Lucas. (2008). Coffee plantation, Kaua'i, Hawaii, USA. [Photograph]. obtained from Wikimedia Commons. CC POR 2.0.
  12. Bamse (2007). Coffee consumption card. obtained fromWikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0.
  13. How to install Brahmaspati. (2007). Map Coffea robusta arabica. obtained fromWikimedia Commons.public domain.
  14. Hansen, MC, et al. (2008) Deforestation of tropical rainforests between 2000 and 2005 quantified using multi-period and multi-resolution remote sensing data. PNAS, 105(27), 9439-9444. obtained fromWikimedia Commons.public domain.
  15. Waddington, Rod. (2014). After the rainforest, Uganda. [Photograph]. obtained fromWikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0.
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