Humans began colonizing the vast Pacific more than 3000 years ago, and over the centuries, islanders developed hundreds of varieties of breadfruit. Some varieties were widely distributed while others were localized to specific islands. Breadfruit was an essential part of life, shaping the landscape and island cultures. Unfortunately, modern life and climate change are taking their toll. The cultivation and use of breadfruit has decreased in many areas and numerous trees have been lost due to drought, storm damage, and neglect. Global warming is a special concern to the low-lying coral atolls due to the increase in number and severity of devastating storms and salt water intrusion into the water table.
A number of varieties of breadfruit have already disappeared or are becoming rare. The loss of traditional knowledge is also accelerating. Wild populations of breadfruit in Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Guam, and the Mariana Islands are also under serious threat as native forests disappear. The Breadfruit Institute is dedicated to conserving and sharing indigenous varieties and wild species of breadfruit, and documenting knowledge about traditional uses and cultural practices.