Maple syrup producers of the lake states, USA: attitudes towards and adaptation to social, ecological, and climate conditions.
Maple syrup is an important non-timber forest product derived from the sap of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marshall). However, maple syrup producers are facing a diversity of challenges, including: potential range shifts in the maple resource; increasing variability in the timing, duration and yield of sap flow and syrup operations; invasive species, pests and diseases; and intergenerational land and business transfer challenges. Members of Maple Syrup Producer Associations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan were surveyed to learn about their operations, adaptation strategies, concerns, and information needs. While many respondents indicated they have undertaken or plan to undertake adaptation activities, only 11% had done so out of specific concern over changing climate conditions. Climate-motivated activities included: being prepared to tap earlier and utilizing newer technology such as vacuum tubing or reverse osmosis to enhance sap collection and processing efficiency. Respondents were generally unlikely to consider planting climate-resilient maple cultivars or tapping trees other than sugar maple. They expressed the greatest concerns over tree health and forest pests, as well as their physical ability and family member interest to continue their operations. Boil season variability and weather issues were viewed with less concern. Respondents were generally optimistic that they can adapt to future conditions, likely in large measure through the adoption of new technologies, and they expect their syrup production levels to slightly increase in the future. If future climate scenarios play out, however, additional planning and adaptation strategies may be called for, particularly as they relate to forest health and productivity issues.