Project

Cocoa – Climate – Forest Interactions

To improve understanding of impacts of climate change on cocoa yield, this project links cocoa crop modeling and spatial analysis to identify spatially explicit cocoa-climate-forest interaction to assess implications for cocoa production in West Africa, including effects of possible shifts in production areas on forest cover.

Climate change through warming and shifts in rainfall is expected to impact negatively the production of cocoa at its core origin, West Africa. Impact models have predicted geographic shifts in production areas and a potential loss of about 50% of current climatically suitable areas for growing cocoa by 2050. However, it is unclear how changes in climatically suitable areas will affect cocoa production. Existing methods do not consider the mechanisms underlying growth and production, which are essential to understand for predicting eco-physiological responses of cocoa tree to changing climate. Hence, cocoa yield response to climate change is not sufficiently quantified.

Predicted shifts in production areas could also have serious implications for forest biodiversity and ecosystem services as it may drive producers to new areas which may coincide with forest. It is therefore urgent to recognize how progressive climate change could affect cocoa production and its related risks to forest to ensure long-term prosperity and sustainability.

This project aims to improve understanding of impacts of climate change on cocoa yield, and to assess implications of climate change for cocoa production in West Africa, including effects of possible shifts in production areas on forest cover. A combined crop modelling and spatial analysis approach will be used. An existing cocoa crop model, SUCROS-Cocoa, will be improved by updating and extending model to include effects of [CO2] on cocoa physiology. The model will be used to simulate cocoa growth and yields for the coming decades for the entire West African cocoa belt.

This PhD project is part of CocoaSoils, a multi-institutional research consortium working on integrated soil fertility management options with long-term trials across environmental and management gradients.