We conducted a web search for “Global Warming and Maple Syrup” and found over 150,000 sites – almost all proclaim that the maple syrup industry is in deep peril given the threat of global warming. This must surely be seen as bad news for all those who enjoy maple syrup on waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, crumpets, and French toast (and in any number of desserts as well). Before you think this threat is less than serious, be aware that maple syrup is big business in New England and in Canada.
But, as with most things you read about on the majority of websites, the fate of maple syrup turns out to be not nearly as bad as portrayed. In fact, the future may be even better for maple syrup production than the past.
In case you do not know, maple syrup is a sweetener made from the sap of sugar maple or black maple trees. In cold climate areas, these trees store starch in their stems and roots before the winter, which when converted to sugar, rises in the sap in the spring. Maple trees can be tapped and the sap is collected and concentrated.
Vermont is the biggest U.S. producer, with nearly a million gallons of syrup produced annually. Maine produces about a third of that amount annually; New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Connecticut all produced marketable quantities of maple syrup as well. While the U.S. production of maple syrup is significant, Canada produces 80% of the world’s maple syrup with most production occurring in Quebec.
Production is concentrated in February, March, and April, depending on local weather conditions. Freezing nights and warm days are needed to induce sap flows. The change in temperature from above to below freezing causes water uptake from the soil, and temperatures above freezing cause a stem pressure to develop, which, along with gravity, causes sap to flow out of tapholes or other wounds in the stem or branches. You immediately see that sap is dependent on climate conditions, predicted changes in local and regional climate can be linked to the production of maple syrup, and according to thousands of websites—and U.S. government climate impact reports—climate change will surely be bad for syrup production, at least in New England. (more…)