Regional growth decline of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and its potential causes

Bishop, Daniel Alexander; Beier, Colin M.; Pederson, Neil; Lawrence, Gregory B.; Stella, John C.; Sullivan, Timothy J.

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh) has experienced poor vigor, regeneration failure, and elevated mortality across much of its range, but there has been relatively little attention to its growth rates. Based on a well‐replicated dendrochronological network of range‐centered populations in the Adirondack Mountains (USA), which encompassed a wide gradient of soil fertility, we observed that the majority of sugar maple trees exhibited negative growth trends in the last several decades, regardless of age, diameter, or soil fertility. Such growth patterns were unexpected, given recent warming and increased moisture availability, as well as reduced acidic deposition, which should have favored growth. Mean basal area increment was greater on base‐rich soils, but these stands also experienced sharp reductions in growth. Growth sensitivity of sugar maple to temperature and precipitation was non‐stationary during the last century, with overall weaker relationships than expected. Given the favorable competitive status and age structure of the Adirondack sugar maple populations sampled, evidence of widespread growth reductions raises concern over this ecologically and economically important tree. Further study will be needed to establish whether growth declines of sugar maple are occurring more widely across its range.


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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Biology and Paleo Environment
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February 6, 2019