There has been a lot of research over the years investigating the health and productivity of sugar maple in Vermont and the broader region. What do these findings tell us about how sugar maple might fair under a changing climate? Are there strategies that can be used to bolster the resilience of sugar maple?
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We are seeing new challenges for our maples and their offspring. Invasive species, climate change, poor forest management, and other factors are all serious threats to the productivity of harvesting maple sugar in the decades to come. However, there are things we can do to protect the tradition of maple sugaring in our regions. Silviculture is our primary tool.
How may climate change impact the maple syrup industry? Our team of interdisciplinary researchers, ACERnet (Acer Climate and Socio-Ecological Research Network), has been working to understand the complex answers to this question for the past several years. In particular, we are interested in examining how climate impacts the timing of the maple tapping season as well as both the quality and quantity of sap collected during the tapping season.
Sugar maple, an abundant and highly valued tree species in eastern North America, has experienced decline from soil calcium (Ca) depletion by acidic deposition, while beech, which often coexists with sugar maple, has been afflicted with beech bark disease (BBD) over the same period. To investigate how variations in soil base saturation combine with effects of BBD in influencing stand composition and structure, measurements of soils, canopy, subcanopy, and seedlings were taken in 21 watersheds in the Adirondack region of NY (USA), where sugar maple and beech were the predominant canopy species and base saturation of the upper B horizon ranged from 4.4 to 67%.
Through the increased combustion of fossil fuels, humans have dramatically increased pollutant additions of sulfur and nitrogen into the atmosphere wher eit combines with water to form sulfuric and nitric acids, creating acid rain. This article investigates the impact of this issue on sugarbush health.
The Acer Climate and Socio-Ecological Research Network (ACERnet) formed recently to study climate impacts on sugar maple and maple syrup production. With funding from the Department of Interior Northeast Climate Science Center, we are focusing our research on the relationship between sap quality and climate, and how producers can and are adapting to climate variability and change.
Relatively little work has been conducted investigating trends and influences of the annual growth of sugar maple trees, utilizing the widths of tree rings to estimate growth rates for each year. Using this tree-ring approach, recent research suggests that growth rates have been decreasing in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State.
Acid deposition induced losses of calcium (Ca) from northeastern forests have had negative effects on forest health for decades, including the mobilization of potentially phytotoxic aluminum (Al) from soils. To evaluate the impact of changes in Ca and Al availability on sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) growth and forest composition following a major ice storm in 1998, we measured xylem annual increment, foliar cation concentrations, American beech root sprouting, and tree mortality at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (Thornton, New Hampshire) in control plots and in plots amended with Ca or Al (treated plots) beginning in 1995.
This report summarizes the results from a survey to document respondent’s experience of changes within maple syrup operations and sugar maple (acer saccharum) ecosystems, including potential changes to regulations, technologies and climate.
In the next one hundred years New England’s cooler regions may no longer promote the growth of sugar maples, which are well adapted to the region’s current climate. The change in climate will support species that now grow to the south of New England and in lower elevations, especially oaks and southern pines. Additionally, there will be the threat of non-native species, both insect pests and invasive plant species which may take over the forests.