Climate Effects on the Culture and Ecology of Sugar Maple

Fiscal Year: 
Project Leader: 
Research Partners: 
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)
Science Themes: 
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 research project addresses the impact of climate on the quality of maple sap used to make maple syrup. Informed by the needs of state and federal resource managers, tribal groups, and other maple syrup producers, the research team will examine the chemical composition of sap collected throughout the northeast and relate this to variation in climate across the region. They will also examine sap from red maple trees, an alternative to sugar maple that is increasingly used to make syrup, and a tree species that is expected to be less sensitive to climate change. Ultimately this project will make projections of maple syrup quality under future climate conditions and under a variety of management strategies.
  • Workshop on "Sugar maple in a changing climate" held at the NE CSC on December 7th, 2015
  • Poster for NE CSC Resgional Science meeting, May 15-17, 2017: "Maple syrup in a changing climate"
  • Joshua Rapp and Selena Ahmed, What are the impacts of climate change on maple syrup production and can we manage for them?, NECSC Colliqium Webinar, NECSC, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, November 29, 2017.
  • Joshua Rapp, Selena Ahmed, Ryan Huish, David Lutz, Boris Dufour, Autumn Brunelle, Toni Lyn Morelli, and Kristina Stinson, "Can we manage the impacts of climate change on sugar maple and maple sugaring?", A series of Talks, posters, and discussions at the Forest Ecosystem and Monitoring Cooperative Annual Meeting, University of Vermont, December 15, 2017.

Press Release:
Studying Climate Change Impact on Maple Syrup Quality UMass News Release February 10,2016
Contact Jan Lathrop (413) 545-0444

And subsequent news pieces:
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,, 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