Climate Effects on the Culture and Ecology of Sugar Maple
Maple syrup is produced from the sap of sugar maple trees collected in the late winter and early spring. Native American tribes have collected and boiled down sap for centuries, and the tapping of maple trees is a cultural touchstone for many people in the northeast and Midwest. Because the tapping season is dependent on weather conditions, there is concern about the sustainability of maple sugaring as climate changes throughout the region. In spite of this, maple syrup production is increasing rapidly, with demand rising as more people appreciate this natural sweetener.
This project addressed the impact of climate on the production of maple syrup. Informed by the needs of state and federal resource managers, tribal groups, and other maple syrup producers, the research team examined sugar maple’s sap yields coupled with the sugar and biochemical composition of sap throughout the geographic range of sugar maple. Sap quality and quantity was related to historical and projected climate changes across the species range and was modeled for climate change scenarios. The team found that declines and increased variability in sap flow are likely near the southern range limit and increased sap flow is likely at the northern range limit.
The results suggest long term range shifts toward the north, as well as geographic variation in expected syrup production over the next several decades. Using surveys of maple syrup producers, the team also found that producers perceive changes in climate variables and concomitant shifts in sap production. Many producers are willing to shift sap harvesting practices in response to changing climate scenarios, but producers are split in their perceptions about the importance of individual variables and their level of concern about future impacts on the industry. Overall, the results can be applied to design more effective extension programming and adaptation plans to mitigate the risk of climate in maple systems.
Toni Lyn Morelli, Co-PI (USGS / NE CSC / University of Massachusetts)
Joshua Rapp (Tufts University, now UMass Amherst)
Ryan Huish (University of Virginia's College at Wise)
David Lutz (Dartmouth University)
Selena Ahmed (Montana State University)
Boris Dufour (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi)
Autumn Brunelle (City of Bloomington, Indiana)
Wendy Smith (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore)
- Rapp, J.M. "How Does Climate Affect Sugar Maple Trees?" For park staff and volunteers at Indian Dunes National Lakeshore, Porter, Indiana, March 28, 2018.
- Rapp, J.M., "How Does Climate Affect Sugar Maple Trees?" Science Saturday, Sugar Maple Research at Indian Dunes National Lakeshore, Porter, Indiana, February 24, 2018.
- Rapp, J.M., "Finding the sweet spot: Climate optimum for maple syrup production." Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative Conference, Burlington, VT, December 15, 2017.
- Ahmed, S. and D. Lutz., "Climate Effects on Maple Phytochemistry and Producer Perceptions and Responses." Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative Conference, Burlington, VT, December 15, 2017.
- Brunelle, A., "What Sap with That?: A look at how Native Americans are Adapting to Climate Change and Maple Sap Production." Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative Conference, Burlington, VT, December 15, 2017.
- Ekdahl, B., and A. Bryan. "Ziizabokdoke: A cultural tradition of sugar making for one Midwestern tribe and seven generations of change." Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative Conference, Burlington, VT, December 15, 2017.
- Rapp, J.M., Duveneck, M.J., and J.R.Thompson. "(Re)expansion of the maple syrup industry in New England: projecting where the taps will be in a changing environment." Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative Conference, Burlington, VT, December 15, 2017.
- Huish, R., Peters, J., Taylor, D., Hinkle M., Dreher, L., Gardner, L., Robinson M.K., Kihiu, D., Munson, B., E. White. "Assessing a strategy of climate change adaptation for maple syrup producers in the Southern Appalachians: Diversification of maple species as sap sources." Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative Conference, Burlington, VT, December 15, 2017.
- Rapp, J.M., Ahmed, S., Brunelle, A., Dufour, B., Huish, R.D., Lutz, D.A., Morelli, T.L., and K. Stinson. "Maple syrup in a changing climate." Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative Conference, Burlington, VT, December 15, 2017.
- J.M. and S. Ahmed, "What are the impacts of climate change on maple syrup production and can we manage for them?" NE CSC Colloquium webinar, Wednesday, November 29, 2017.
A two-page handout detailing the relationship between climate change and maple syrup production.
- Studying Climate Change Impact on Maple Syrup Quality UMass News Release February 10,2016
- UMass researchers to study impact of climate change on maple syrup taste, production MassLive article, February 10, 2016
- Studying Climate Change Impact on Maple Syrup Quality Red Lake Nation News, February 11, 2016
- Studying climate change impact on maple syrup quality, Phys.org, February 10, 2016
- UMass ecologist leads 1st study of climate change impact on sugar maples Going Green, Feb 10, 2016
- Climate Change Is Coming For Your Maple Syrup, Climate Central, March 28, 2016
- Climate change may impact maple syrup production, Chicago Tribune, February 19, 2016
- Indiana Park Studies Impact Of Climate Change On Maple Syrup, Indiana Public Media, April 4, 2016
- Sap to syrup: In Petersham, researcher tracks climate effects on sugar maples, Telegram, March 15, 2016
- What Climate Change Means for Maple Syrup, Stories For Strangers, March 24, 2016
- Maple Runs Early, Steady, Valley News, March 31, 2016
- Bullard Spotlight: Joshua Rapp on Sugar Maples in a Changing Climate, Harvard Forest, February 19, 2016