The North American breakfast staple maple syrup is at threat, according to a new study released by the Ecological Society of America (ECA).The study shows sugar maple trees are on the decline.
ECA says the decline was first noted in the Adirondacks but other maple producing areas may also be affected.
Scientists from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry who examined the tree rings of sugar maples in the Adirondacks found the tree’s growth rate has been dropping steadily for 40 years.
Daniel Bishop, who used the research project as part of his master’s thesis says, "Given their relatively young age and favorable competitive status in these forests, these sugar maples should be experiencing the best growth rates of their lives. It was a complete surprise to see their growth slow down like this. But our data tells a clear story. We can detect the start of a region-wide downturn after 1970, with a large proportion of the trees continuing this trend over recent years."
Bishop says although there is a correlation between increased amounts of acid rain from the 1970's onward and the decline, it's unclear if pollution is the only cause.
Scientist Mary Beth Griggs says the increasingly wet and warm climate in the Adirondacks should be resulting in increased plant and tree growth, which adds to the puzzle.
Although the study focused solely on sugar maples in the Adirondacks, the scientists are optimistic that if the problem is widespread across northeastern United States and Canada, it may not necessarily mean that sugar maples will disappear. Griggs says more research needs to be done to know
Dr. Colin Beier, who oversaw the study says, "Time will tell if slower growth is a harbinger of something more serious for sugar maple. But given the ecological, economic and cultural importance of this tree, the stakes could be high. We need to sort out whether these declines are more widespread, the reasons why they are occurring, and what their implications might be for our ecosystems and local economies."
There has been no comment yet from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers which controls 75 percent of the world’s maple syrup production. The group acts as somewhat of a cartel controlling maple syrup supply and keeping prices stable.