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Climate Effects on the Culture and Ecology of Sugar Maple

A Northeast CSC Funding Opportunity 2015 Project


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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. Overall demand for maple syrup has been rapidly rising as more people appreciate this natural sweetener. Yet because the tapping season is dependent on weather conditions, there is concern about the sustainability of maple sugaring as the region’s climate changes. The distribution of sugar maple could move north into Canada and the sap flow season may become shorter in the future. Not only could these changes affect producers and consumers of maple syrup, [...]

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Funding Agency :
Northeast CSC
Principal Investigator :
Kristina Stinson, Toni L Morelli
Cooperator/Partner :
Joshua Rapp, Ryan Huish, David Lutz, Selena Ahmed
Project Team :
Josh Rapp
CMS Group :
Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASC) Program

Attached Files

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“Sugar Maple - Credit: Alan Cressler”
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Project Extension

typeTechnical Summary
valueSugar maple (Acer saccharum) is a key cultural and ecological resource of the northeast and Midwest and could be a flagship species for the NE CSC. We propose to quantify how climate change is affecting syrup quality of sugar maple, and the potentially less climate-sensitive alternative of red maple. We will work with LCCs, States, Tribal Members, and other Producers through remote and in-person meetings to elucidate and adapt the resulting linkages to livelihoods, ecological knowledge, and adaptive management practices. We will sample 15-20 mature sugar maple trees and 10 red maple trees at sites distributed throughout the Northeast. We will also use state-level National Agricultural Statistics Service and historical data to carry out fine-scale analyses of the effects of climate variability on sap and syrup quality and yield, and leverage NE CSC downscaled climate data to make projections of future harvests. We will couple these ecological data with surveys to gauge traditional ecological knowledge, perceptions of climate risk, and existing adaptive management strategies. Rapp, Lutz, and Huish will conduct fieldwork; Ahmed will perform laboratory analysis; Rapp, Huish, and Ahmed will conduct ethnoecological surveys; Rapp will analyze data and develop an interactive website; Morelli will organize the project and facilitate stakeholder engagement throughout the project. Products from the research will disseminate information to stakeholders with the aim to facilitate adaptation to climate change and aid in preserving the cultural and economic values of maple sugaring in the northeast and Midwest. These will include: peer-reviewed publications and a white paper; an interactive website to synthesize and disseminate results; maps displaying collection sites and annual variation in syrup yield, as well as areas that are projected to be less and more viable for maple sugaring; and 5 trained undergraduates.

Budget Extension

typeAgreement Type
valueCooperative Agreement
typeAgreement Number

Additional Information

Alternate Titles


Type Scheme Key
RegistrationUUID NCCWSC 7f188598-eb2a-4d47-8b87-83db3be6aeec
StampID NCCWSC NE14-MT0216

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