Sugar maples rely on consistent snow cover to thrive, and climate change is threatening that.
Maple syrup is a food that you might have to describe to your great-grandchildren because they won’t be able to taste it themselves. As climate change reduces the amount of snow in the northeastern forests of North America, where sugar maples grow, it will negatively affect the trees’ ability to grow and produce sap, making maple syrup a treat from the past.
This alarming discovery was revealed in a study last week, published in Global Change Biology. The researchers explain how lack of adequate snowpack causes sugar maples to grow 40 percent slower than usual, and when the snowpack returns, they are unable to recover. One biochemist has described the study as a “big deal” and NPR writes, “This spells trouble for the trees — and for humans — as the trees not only give us syrup, but also eat up a chunk of carbon pollution.”
Forests play an important role, sucking carbon dioxide out of the air and storing it. They offset an estimated 5 to 30 percent of U.S. carbon emissions. But right now the forecast is dire for northeastern forests. Climate change is expected to shrink the amount of snow cover by up to 95 percent, which species like sugar maples rely on. In a worst-case scenario, that snow could go from covering 33,000 square miles each winter to a mere 2,000 by the end of the century.
Will the Maple trees be able to adapt somehow? Read more about the Top environmental concerns of 2019 here.