Melba Lara: You're listening to WBEZ and its maple syrup season. Late winter and early spring are the best times of year for collecting sap from maple trees, but the syrup season is super dependent on temperature. So in this week's climate conversation, we're going to learn more about that relationship and how climate change could impact the maple syrup industry. Joining me is the Director of Education for the Lake County Forest Preserves, Nan Buckardt. Nan, thanks for joining us.
Nan Buckardt: It's a pleasure to be here.
Melba Lara: So tell us first, how do trees actually produce the sap that becomes maple syrup?
Nan Buckardt: Well, the sap is inside the tree all year long. However, in springtime, as it breaks dormancy and starts to get ready to throw out the leaves the freezing and thawing cycle of the weather helps to make the tree actually push the sap towards the outside where we can tap the trees and get it.
Melba Lara: And what is the relationship between maple syrup production and temperature?
Nan Buckardt: We need to have the freezing and thawing days in order to collect the sap. So, it's the freezing nights and above freezing during the day. If it's sunny, it helps but the sap will still flow. And once the temperatures getting real warm, the trees start to get ready to have their flowers and the sap turns and it's no longer good for syrup making.
Melba Lara: And what about the relationship between maple syrup and precipitation? And by that, I mean does it matter if it's a dryer or wetter year?
Nan Buckardt: The precipitation that the trees need actually comes the previous year. And because they need water for in order to produce the sugar's through photosynthesis, they need the right amount of rain. And so if it's very dry, they can't make as much sugar or if it's very wet, that stresses the trees and they also may not function as well.
Melba Lara: Let's talk a little bit about climate change, It sounds like you need some pretty specific conditions to tap maple trees and make syrup. How does climate change affect that?
Nan Buckardt: It is a complicated system. So we need the proper temperatures. We need to have the right kind of precipitation. We need to make sure and have sunny skies. And so the warming temperatures and the changes in precipitation and the changes in that freeze and thaw cycle that we're getting, does impact the maple syrup production. We know that the season is becoming earlier, but it's also becoming shorter because of the way that the climate is changing.
Melba Lara: Obviously climate change affects so many industries. But what might it mean for the maple syrup industry and for people like me who love to put something sweet on their pancakes?
Nan Buckardt: Well, the prediction is that the number of maple trees in the southern part of their range right now will decline. And so, there will be a smaller sex of north America that would be producing the maple syrup and as that production get stressed with less trees available for tapping the price of syrup will certainly go up,
Melba Lara: I want to talk about your work in the Lake County Forest preserves. What programming do you have planned their for? People want to learn more about maple syrup?
Nan Buckardt: We do programming every March for maple syrup. So we have weekend programs for saturday's and Sundays and you get to learn about how trees work through the lens of maple syrup and then actually get to taste some of the syrup that we make at Ryerson Woods. In addition, we are collaborating with WTTW. On a maple syrup festival that is going to be happening on Saturday morning, February, 25th. And we're going to have Daisy from Nature Cat at Ryerson Woods while people can go and learn about maple syrup and meet Daisy
Melba Lara: Nan, thanks for talking to us about maple trees and climate change and maple syrup. It's wonderful talking to you.
Nan Buckardt: Thank you.
Melba Lara: I've been speaking with Nan Buckardt, the Director of Education for the Lake County Forest preserves. And if you have a topic that you want us to cover our weekly climate segment, you can email climate at WBEZ.org. This is WBEZ.
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