Sometimes it feels like the whole planet has gone haywire, and part of that horrible impending doom is the semi-regular raising of concerns that we’ll be facing shortages on everything from olive oil to avocados to prosecco. Now even the mighty maple tree might be in trouble.
A new study conducted at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry found that the majority of sugar maples in the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York have seen their growth rate decline since 1970. What’s troubling is that these experts aren’t sure why.
“Given their relatively young age and favorable competitive status in these forests, these sugar maples should be experiencing the best growth rates of their lives,” said Daniel Bishop, the man behind the study. “It was a complete surprise to see their growth slow down like this.” His co-author agreed. “Outside of studies of red spruce in the 1970s, I have never seen anything quite like this,” said Dr. Neil Pederson, an ecologist at Harvard Forest in Massachusetts. “Most tree-ring studies of canopy trees in the region do not show a decline like what we see in these sugar maple. Combined with evidence of reduced natural regeneration of sugar maple in the region, it is a concern.”
With the syrup business being a multi-billion-dollar industry, it seems like it would be easy to start sounding the alarm, but much like the pouring of good maple syrup, those behind the findings are choosing to move at a more deliberate pace. “Time will tell if slower growth is a harbinger of something more serious for sugar maple,” said associate professor of ecology Dr. Colin Beier, who supervised the researcher. “We need to sort out whether these declines are more widespread, the reasons why they are occurring, and what their implications might be for our ecosystems and local economies.”
[h/t Modern Farmer]