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Regional Sugar Maple Study - Synopsis


  Richard Hallett, Durham, NH
Scott Bailey, Campton, NH
Robert Long, Delaware, OH
Stephen Horsley, Warren, PA

USDA Forest Service,
Northeastern Research Station

FOREST HEALTH and monitoring issues have become a major focus of scientists in Europe and North America during the last decade. The interest in forest health has increased because of widespread forest decline symptoms in Europe, high elevation spruce/fir decline in eastern North America and evidence of sugar maple decline in Quebec and the northeastern United States. Global change issues such as acid deposition and intensive harvesting have been implicated as possible causes of decline. The regional scale of stressors presents logistical challenges, which necessitate the initiation of cooperative studies dealing with the assessment of the extent and severity of these problems.

Unusually high mortality of sugar maple in several parts of the northeast has generated several studies to determine the causes. To date, these studies have focused on sugar maple decline in limited geographic areas. Information gained from these studies indicates that multiple stresses including insect defoliation, nutrient deficiencies or imbalances, and possibly unusual weather patterns (drought, late spring frosts) play a role in the decline of the species. Because of the species importance to the economy and ecology of the region, a cooperative study was initiated in 1996, involving four research work units of the Northeastern Research Station. Nearly 80 study sites have been established in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. At each study plot, data are compiled on stand structure, health, disturbance history, growth rates, foliar chemistry, soil chemistry, and physical site characteristics.

     The objectives of the study are:
1. Establish a network of sites, across the range of soil types and acid deposition loads found in the northeast, where sugar maple health, growth and nutrition are measured along with soil chemical and physical properties.
2. Examine relationships between sugar maple health and growth and site characteristics. Determine threshold quantities of important parameters that might limit growth or predispose sugar maple to decline in the event of multiple stresses.
3. Develop a diagnostic tool that uses foliar chemistry of sugar maple to identify nutrient deficiencies or toxicity.
4. Develop field methods and predictive (GIS-based) methods to evaluate site quality for sugar maple.

Date Prepared: August 19898