Social issue: the effects of climate change on the maple industry
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In general, global warming in the north is expected to promote sugar maple growth and syrup production, Solarik observes. But what will be the effects of warming on the germination rates and on the natural regeneration of this characteristic species of the temperate forest? Will the sugar maples migrate north? This is what the researcher wanted to determine as part of his doctoral thesis.
Initially, the biologist collected maple seeds from different sites distributed throughout the range of sugar maple, from its extreme south in Tennessee and Kentucky to its northern limit. near Rivière-du-Loup. He then subjected them to various temperatures (and sudden temperature variations) in the laboratory (from -1 ° to + 13 ° Celsius) to determine their respective germination rate. "The seeds of the sugar maple are very sensitive to temperature," notes the biologist. Seeds from all provenances germinate best at temperatures below 5 ° Celsius (ideally around 0 ° -1 ° Celsius), but southern species are more tolerant of warming. In the north, a warmer climate could result in a reduction in the germination rate. ”
The researcher then studied the effect of the site on the frequency of establishment of his seeds. He planted them in 12 sites: 4 in the temperate zone, 4 in the boreal zone and 4 in the ecotone (the transition zone between the two), so inside, on the border and outside of the range of the species. In this case, seeds from the north were the most likely to germinate and establish in the more northerly sites (where this species does not currently grow). However, the researcher observed a priority effect that could hinder the migration of sugar maple. "The resident species of the boreal forest are already well established, and, unless there is a disturbance that favors the recruitment of sugar maple (fire, insects, wind ...), they will slow down the expansion of its distribution area. "
A warming climate will most likely lead to a migration of sugar maple. But the conditions for expansion and establishment of this species are complex, notes the researcher. “The expansion of sugar maple is likely to be much slower than people think,” he says.
What to change
Kevin Solarik is convinced that the wealth of information gathered during his thesis can be used to improve our ability to predict the effects of climate change on forest ecosystems. A postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alberta, the biologist was recruited by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), where, since last May, he has held the position of director of forestry research for the Canada, the Northeast and North Central United States. The goal of this non-profit organization is to conduct research in order to better support sustainable development practices in forest management.
According to him, university researchers should do more field studies. “It costs less to use data that already exists, but you learn a lot better when you go into the field,” says the one who has traveled three times more than 15,000 kilometers for the purposes of his research. The researcher also wants scientists to have more forums to communicate their results. “The general public must have better access to scientific knowledge,” he says. According to him, university researchers should do more field studies. “It costs less to use data that already exists, but you learn a lot better when you go into the field,” says the one who has traveled three times more than 15,000 kilometers for the purposes of his research. The researcher also wants scientists to have more forums to communicate their results. “The general public must have better access to scientific knowledge,” he says.