Managing for a delicious ecosystem service under climate change
Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is an iconic tree species that provides multiple ecosystem services. Sugar maple’s economic importance is at least threefold: maple syrup, maple timber, and fall foliage tourism. In the U. S. in 2015, 13 million liters (3.41 million gallons) of syrup were produced, valued at roughly $130 million. Understanding how this resource may be impacted by climate change and other threats is essential to continue management for maple syrup into the future. Forest Service researchers have evaluated the current distribution of maple syrup production across 23 states and estimated the current potential sugar maple resource. Predictive models show declines in sugar maple habitat likely to occur due to climate change across many of the states in the southern and middle sections of the species distribution. In addition, a potential change in the early season growing degree days was noted thus influencing the sap run across the eastern U.S. These findings do have a sweet message, too. Some regions, along the northern tier of the eastern hardwood region, which includes the country’s most established industry in Vermont, may be able to maintain or increase capacity. In addition, in areas further north, such as Maine and Minnesota, where both climate change impacts and currently developing sugar maple habitat are occurring, there may be viable opportunities to increase maple syrup production in the future.
Forest Service Partners