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Mapping the Great Lakes: Where to find your sugar maples

Mapping the Great Lakes: Where to find your sugar maples
April 28, 2022 Alex Hill

The Great Lakes region may be best known for its freshwater resources, but another resource it has in abundance is its maple syrup. Canada is the world’s leading producer of maple syrup, generating 75% of the global supply. Within Canada, the province of Quebec is the top producer (96.4%) of maple syrup products followed by Ontario.

The data displayed here is from the U.S. Forest Service’s “Climate Change Atlas,” showing the 2019 actual range of tree species compared to their historical range. The Climate Change Atlas relies on the Forest Inventory Analysis while a different assessment called the National Forest Inventory is conducted in Canada. I’m very thankful for the work of research ecologist Anantha Prasad and colleagues to merge these datasets for 25 different tree species. Trees and other natural resources don’t care for national boundaries.

Climate change and warming temperatures specifically are having an impact on both maple sugar production and the habitat for the sugar maple. Natural Resources Canada has run map models based on climate data showing a shrinking range for the sugar maple. In Michigan, the 2021 maple syrup season saw 20,000 less gallons from 550,000 tree taps. The maple syrup season was also noted to be five days shorter than in 2020.

The sugar maple is a culturally important and sacred symbol of many Indigenous groups. The Anishinaabe people have been sugaring maple trees in the region for thousands of years. Sugarbush, or ​​iskigamizigan, refers to a forest of maple trees used for sugaring.

Climate change will have a significant effect on sugar maples and this very long cultural tradition of harvesting and producing maple syrup.


Catch more news at Great Lakes Now: 

The Great Lakes sugaring season is changing

Mapping the Great Lakes: Lighthouse search

Mapping the Great Lakes: What’s in a Great Lakes name?

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