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Climate Change and Maple Syrup Production: What will be the impacts and how to prepare for them?

5/6 of our maple grove development guide capsules featuring Michael Cliche, a forest engineer, and Sylvain Bilodeau, president of LS Bilodeau.

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Are our maples ready to face climate change?

Michael Cliche, a forestry engineer and co-author of the Guide d'aménagement des érablières, starts by saying, "It's a big, big question." "Certainly, climate change will affect our maple groves; for example, in the case of the summer of 2021 that we just experienced, a hot and dry summer is more challenging for sugar maples. They will produce less sugar because they will be respiring more of the time and doing less photosynthesis."

Our maple trees could find themselves uncomfortable.

At present, the climate is warming more quickly than our tree species can migrate northward. So, we will end up with maples in regions where they are not "supposed to be." To put it simply, in 50 years, it's possible that the sugar maple from here is actually suited to live 100 km to the north, for example. The seeds, on the other hand, may move only a hundred meters per year. We will therefore face specific management issues. Mr. Cliche adds that there is a lot of ongoing research, but there is no consensus in terms of predicting impacts in the current scientific opinion.

Diversity for Better Adaptability

Certainly, one thing on which the scientific community agrees is that the key will lie in the diversity of the population to promote the adaptability of the woodland. We can even take action now in choosing companion species: we will choose species typical of more southern regions, such as oaks and hickories. Other species that we may not currently see in our maple groves in Chaudière-Appalaches, but which will likely be favored in the future.

Between sugar maple and red maple (full), which one will be better adapted to climate change?

There will always be present, but according to the forester, the red maple is more plastic, more versatile. As for the sugar maple, it is more sensitive, and it is the one that may find it much more difficult than the red maple. These are assumptions since there are many variables that we do not know. Certainly, sugar maple-dominated maple stands will be much more at risk.

Think especially about fungi, diseases, and pest insects.

For more information, refer to the Guide d'aménagement des érablières. The Guide d’aménagement des érablières, created by the Association des propriétaires de boisés de la Beauce, in collaboration with the Canadian Partnership for Agriculture Canada-Québec.

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