Breadfruit Trees Endangered by Climate Change and Western-Style Diet

The breadfruit tree, which has long provided a dietary staple to residents of South Pacific islands, is in severe decline, experts say, threatened by climate change and, of all things, Spam. Breadfruit trees, with their shallow roots, are particularly vulnerable to storms and cyclones, which have been on the rise in recent years, a trend many attribute to global warming; the trees are also susceptible to rising sea levels and the infiltration of salt water into the soil and water table. At the same time, Pacific islanders, who have cultivated breadfruit trees for at least 3,000 years, have lately turned instead to processed foods such as Spam, leading not only to a drop in the overall number of trees and the disappearance of many local varieties, but also to increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in the region.