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February 10, 2013

Climate impact to be felt

(Continued)

Those researchers also determined that starting dates for tapping maples in the Northeast are now about a week earlier than in 1970. By scaling down global climate computer models to regional scales in order to project localized daily temperatures into the year 2100, the Cornell study concluded, as well, that in northern regions like ours, the overall number of sap-flow days probably won’t change much. The peak season, however, will continue to shift, becoming earlier and earlier over time.

In an article written by Cornell University Life Sciences Writer Krishna Ramanujan, published in the Nov. 10, 2010 edition of the Cornell Chronicle, Brian Chabot, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who co-authored a paper on climate change and maple production, which appeared in the journal Climate Change in September of that year, is quoted as saying, “By 2100, we can expect to begin tapping maples closer to Christmas in the Northeast.” The article goes on to say that, according to Chabot, maple-syrup production in Quebec may actually benefit from climate changes.

The picture is quite different, however, for producers in locations at the southern end of the sugar-maple range. Rumanajan’s article goes on to say that Chabot believes maple production south of Pennsylvania will likely be lost by the year 2100, due to lack of freezing. And studies conducted by the United States Forest Service (USFS) indicate a substantial reduction in suitable habitat for sugar maple in this century, with the southern range being most profoundly affected. Those studies suggest that the viability of syrup production could be further impacted as trees become more stressed by extreme weather and resulting disease and insect pressure.

Following a comprehensive review of more than 50 years of long-term data on environmental conditions at the USFS Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire, a group of 21 scientists recently released a paper maintaining that winters there are becoming both shorter and milder; that over that period of time, there has been a rise in the amount of rainfall and a decrease in snowfall; and that soil thaw is no longer closely tied to spring plant growth, creating a transitional period that results in the loss of important soil nutrients.

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