NE CSC Stakeholder Meeting Addresses Sugar Maple in a Changing Climate

Monday, January 4, 2016
The workshop brought together maple syrup producers, resource managers from state, local, tribal and non-governmental organizations, and researchers to discuss maple ecology, management, and the potential effects of climate change on sugar maple and the maple syrup industry.
 
ACERnet scientists introduced their NE CSC-funded project monitoring sugar maple sap flow at sites across sugar maple’s range, from Virginia to Quebec to understand how climate effects sap flow, sugar content, and chemical composition, which together influence the quality and quantity of maple syrup produced.  Workshop participants received an overview of research on climate change impacts on maple trees and syrup, which has focused on four areas: 
   1) the projected distribution of sugar maple under climate change
   2) tree health
   3) tapping season timing and length
   4) sap quality 
 
 

Maple syrup producers shared their perspectives on the diversity of maple production practices, perceptions and questions about climate effects on maple sugaring, and changing practices in response to a changing climate.  The wide-ranging discussion included both the concerns the community had about climate change impacts on maple and actions that are and can be implemented to adapt to the effects climate has on the industry. Matthew Noiseux noted that for Mass Audubon, “a sugaring program is an outreach opportunity”, and that a change in reliable season dates causes problems for scheduling ecotourism and staffing. Pieter van Loon, a forester with the Vermont Land Trust noted that current “market pressures force people to convert natural communities where sugar maple is a minor component, to sugar bushes. What does this do to long term resilience?” 
 
Sugar maple regeneration was discussed as a problem throughout the region, while Sam Schneski, the Windham/Windsor, Vermont County Forester, noted that some syrup producers are beginning to plant “super-sweet” sugar maple seedlings, a potential adaptive response. Several participants expressed the need for management guidelines and educational materials available to producers for managing under climate change. ACERnet is launching a website that will provide materials for resource managers on the state of knowledge of climate change impacts and adaptations.
 
Tribal partners stressed the importance of sugar maple to their people and the necessity of research on climate change impacts. Travis Bartnick noted that “the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission is concerned with the potential impacts of climate change and non-climate stressors on sugar maple trees- a treaty harvested resource- and the production of maple sugar and syrup throughout the Ceded Territories in northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Reservation and Ceded Territory boundaries restrict tribal community members from shifting with potential range shifts in the sources that have been so important to them, both culturally and economically.” Noah Jansen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians concurred that “our tribe is interested in ways to adapt.  We are doing some assisted migration plantings to make our forests more resilient to climate change, but I am not sure if there is a tree that can replace sugar maple for syrup production.” Chris Caldwell from the College of the Menominee Nation provided cultural context of the tribal relationships with sugar maple, adding, “I appreciate hearing there is a community relationship context being added to the work.”
 
The community expressed enthusiasm for the project, and some wanted to become part of the sampling network. Joy Marburger, from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore noted, “We are really interested in having a program set up here, since sugar maple production activities are already underway. We want to follow the protocols to collect the data and would like to get a citizen science project going. We also want to involve other Great Lakes parks if they are doing sugar maple syrup production.” Others were hopeful that the research on sap quality could help managers and producers detect and respond to climate impacts. Sand Wilmot from the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks, and Recreation said, “There may be a way to use sap chemistry as an early warning for climate impacts.”  
 
ACERnet is working to address some of the unanswered questions the community has on the future of the sugar maple and syrup production, with a focus on how sap and syrup quality is influenced by climate. As this project wraps up, ACERnet will disseminate the project’s monitoring results, adaptation guidelines and networking tools with a demonstration of the interactive website during a final workshop.
 
 
For more information, contact Josh Rapp at rapp@fas.harvard.edu