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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2016

  • Title: (Re)expansion of the maple syrup industry in New England: projecting where the taps will be in a changing environment
  • Primary Author: Joshua Rapp (University of Massachusetts - Amherst )
  • Additional Authors: Matthew Duveneck (New England Conservatory); Jonathan Thompson (Harvard Forest)
  • Abstract:

    The cultural and economic importance sugar maple is nearly unrivaled in eastern North America. In addition to its wood providing high value lumber and its leaves providing the brilliant backdrop for the “leaf-peeping” autumn tourist economy, its sweet sap is the raw material for maple syrup, one of the few wild-harvested agricultural products in North America. While U.S. maple syrup production reached its peak around the Civil War before beginning a long decline, recent technological advances and rising demand has spurred new growth in the industry. New England leads the U.S. in maple syrup production, and is the region with the fastest growth. To explore possible growth in the industry, we mapped the potential taps in New England using FIA data and the Landis II forest landscape model. Using conservative tapping guidelines based on tree diameter from the North American Maple Syrup Council, we calculated the number of taps per acre for both sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and red maple (Acer rubrum) in each of the FIA plots included in the imputed forest composition map of Duveneck et al. (2015) to create a map of potential taps across New England. Next steps are to project the number of taps across the landscape given likely scenarios of climate, land-use, and forest change. For this, we will use Landis II projections, which provide biomass and age estimates for individual species at future time steps. We used FIA data to relate biomass and maximum species age to numbers of taps per plot. At the plot level, our estimates of tap density are strongly correlated with the number of taps calculated directly from tree diameters (r = 0.9), suggesting this approach will give realistic estimates when projected across the landscape. This work will provide resource managers, maple producers, and policy makers with useful information on trends of maple resource availability for a growing forest industry.

  • Research Category: Conservation and Management; Ecological Informatics and Modelling; Regional Studies