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Climate Change and Maple Syrup: Producer Observations, Perceptions, Knowledge, and Adaptation Strategies

Thursday, March 30, 2023
Maple syrup ready for consumption. Photo: J. Rapp

Article Summary

Climate change is impacting forest-based agricultural systems, a situation that has significant implications for producer decision-making and livelihoods. A new article coauthored by NE CASC Research Ecologist Toni Lyn Morelli and published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change examines this issue through a case study on maple syrup producers and their observations, perceptions, knowledge, and adaptation strategies regarding climate change. 

To conduct this study, Morelli and her collaborators carried out two semi-structured surveys with maple producers on: (1) climate change and its impacts on the maple system; and (2) responses to climate adaptation scenarios. Additionally, the team also organized two focus groups and key informant interviews to understand barriers and opportunities for climate adaptation. One of these focus groups and follow up key informant interviews focused on  tribally affiliated community members with the intention to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ voices, history, and relationships to the land.

Findings revealed that the vast majority of surveyed producers (89%) have experienced the negative impacts of climate on maple syrup production. While 40% of participants feel concerned regarding the future of the maple system, 39% feel hopeful, with significant differences based on the age of the surveyed producers. The majority of producers have adapted their harvesting practices to climate effects. Producers shared knowledge of multiple adaptation strategies in response to climate scenarios comprised of: (1) stand management practices such as diversification of sap species tapped; (2) harvesting practices such as changing the type and number of taps; (3) sap processing practices focused on the integration of technology such as the use of an evaporator and reverse osmosis; and (4) marketing practices such as developing new products and emphasizing  different maple syrup characteristics. Responses shared by tribally affiliated producers highlight knowledge of multiple adaptation strategies that focus on long-term ecological management of forests rather than technological solutions.

Overall, findings emphasize the importance of cooperation and diversification at every level and dimension of the maple system for its long-term resilience.