How Sweet It Isn’t: The Effects of Global Climate Change On the Maple Sugar Industry

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How Sweet It Isn’t: The Effects of Global Climate Change On the Maple Sugar Industry Global climate change has been the topic of discussion these days in New England, where spring thaw seems to come earlier each year, prematurely driving hundreds of sugar bush operators from their cabins and into the thickets to tap the sweet nectar of the sugar maple. Times and temperatures are changing for these laborers, and the effects of global climate change on the maple sugar industry have not gone unnoticed. Much of the New England sugar industry has suffered from profit and production decrease, and poor sugar bush health, posing the threat that the tradition of maple sugaring in this region may become obsolete if warming trends continue as they are. The economic, social and ecological effects of global climate change are a cause for concern in New England, compromising the livelihood of an entire culture of loyal maple syrup lovers. The sugar maple (Acer sacharum) has been an icon of New England for centuries, made sacred by the Native Americans who first extracted the sugary lifeblood from the tree. It ignites fall flames throughout the mountains and valleys of New England startling even the most avid “leaf peepers”, and is a trademark of the landscape, kept under close watch by its neighbors. Throughout the past decade the sugar maple has experienced significant stress from environmental pollution such as acid rain, smog and increased levels of carbon dioxide. In addition to this, rising temperatures and extreme weather patterns have weakened the vitality and richness of the species in its native habitat (Rock, Barrett and Shannon Spencer, 2001). GRAPH The sugar maple is unquestionably the most preferred species for producing maple products, primarily because of their high sugar content. Sugar maple occurs naturally throughout most of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada The vulnerability of the sugar maple to the effects of global climate change poses a risk not only for the trees, but also for many who make a living in the forest.

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