Researchers studied six sugar maple stands across the United States and Canada to analyze the correlation between sap flow and rising temperatures.

By Kelly Vaughan
September 23, 2019
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Maple syrup season may begin one month earlier than historically recorded by the year 2100, according to a study conduced by researchers at Dartmouth College. This doesn't have to do with consumer demand for a delicious plate of buttermilk pancakes—it's all because of climate change.

Maple syrup season begins as soon as winter nights hit below freezing temperatures and the days are above freezing. This fluctuation causes the sap to flow in sugar maple trees. As daily temperatures continue to rise because of climate change, researchers predict that maple syrup season will start in December rather than January by the year 2100.

"Maple syrup production is impacted by two climate sensitive factors: sugar content, which is determined by the previous year's carbohydrate stores and sap flow, which depends on the freeze/thaw cycle. As a sugar maple tree thaws, the frozen sap begins to move through the tree," according to Science Daily.

Related: How One Family Makes (And Cooks With!) Their Own Maple Syrup

The study, which was published in Forest Ecology and Management, examined six sugar maple stands from Virginia to Québec, Canada, over a six-year period. The locations include Divide Ridge in Virginia; Southernmost Maple in Virginia; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Indiana; Harvard Forest in Massachusetts; Dartmouth Organic Farm in New Hampshire; and Chicoutimi in Québec, Canada. Researchers aimed to gauge how monthly and seasonal-average temperatures affected the tapping season and sap flow from January to May.

Researchers collected 15-25 sap samples from mature sugar maple trees, as well as daily temperature readings, to measure the volume and weight of the sap; sugar content; variations of sap flow from tree to tree, year over year. "As the climate gets warmer, the sugar maple tapping season will shrink and will get closer to a December date. Maple syrup producers may want to consider adapting their technologies and collection logistics in advance, so that they are prepared for how climate change is going to affect production," said co-author David Lutz, a research assistant professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth.

The maple syrup season is a multi-million dollar industry and researchers intend to conduct more studies to determine the impact this will have on maple syrup production.

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