Climate change and the culture of maple syrup

Maple syrup is produced from the sap of sugar maple 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.

Part of my research addresses the impact of climate on the quality of maple sap used to make maple syrup. Maple syrup production and quality are strongly influenced by sap sugar content and secondary chemistry. Both are influenced by both endogenous resource dynamics related to masting and external climate forcing. With an inter-disciplinary team, I am examining the chemical composition of sap collected throughout the northeast, including across a latitudinal gradient from the southern range limit of sugar maple in Virginia to its northern range limit in Quebec. We are also examining sap from red maple, an alternative to sugar maple that is increasingly used to make syrup and a species that is expected to be less sensitive to climate change. This will allow us to make projections of maple syrup quality under future climate conditions and under different management strategies.


Boris Dufour, Universite du Quebec, Chicotimi