The Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York are in one of the most protected parks in the world, but this will not stop climate change from altering this fragile ecosystem. The sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is an important species ecologically and economically, but its health and distribution are sensitive to long-term changes in climate. In the near-term the sugar maple’s sap flow and thus, the current maple syrup industry, may also be influenced by shifting climate and weather patterns. Here we compare data from a Lake Placid, NY weather station (inside the Adirondack Park) and weather station data from Syracuse, NY (in upstate NY, but outside the park) from 1910-2014 to investigate potential changes in sugar maple phenology relevant to syrup production. We focus on temperature change during sugaring season, the duration of sap flows, the timing of budbreak, etc. during our study period. The Adirondack Park was chosen as the focal point of the study because of the region’s boreal climate and ecology, which is closely tied to the economics of this unique rural area. We compare the Adirondacks to the surrounding area to determine how climate shifts incongruously impact similar regions.
Our preliminary analysis indicates that annual weather patterns are influencing the Acer saccharum sugaring season in the Adirondack Park. In Lake Placid the average temperature of the sugaring season (January – May) has increased significantly by approximately 2.5°C since 1910 (Lake Placid, r2 = 0.29, p < 0.01). However, in Syracuse the average temperature of the sugaring season has not significantly changed since 1910 (Syracuse, p > 0.05). These differing temperature profiles may contribute to region-specific alterations in maple syrup production. We also found that the end of the Lake Placid sugaring season (characterized as the onset of budbreak) now occurs approximately 10 days earlier than in 1910 (r2 = 0.17, p = 0.01). Strikingly, the sugaring season termination has not shifted in Syracuse (p > 0.05). These preliminary results suggest that as temperatures have increased since 1910, the potential sugaring season ended earlier in the year in the Adirondacks but not in the surrounding area. However, any consequences that climate shifts may have in the short-term for sugar maples will likely continue to develop as weather patterns continue to change.