Branching Out: Novel Tree Syrups Could Make Forests, Farmers More Resilient

Beech sap steams down into syrup in a pot in Lee. (Annie Ropeik/NHPR)

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire are studying new ways to make syrup out of the northern forest — not from maple trees, but from beeches, birches, sycamores and more. They want to create new markets for an industry that, right now, depends on just one kind of tree – making it vulnerable to disease and climate change.

At the tail end of maple sugaring season, other kinds of sap were still flowing freely in the woods of Lee. UNH researcher David Moore had sensors plugged into a stand of beech trees to measure that sap and the conditions helping produce it.

You can see I have three trees with sensors here that are all tied back to one data logger,” Moore said, pointing to the tubes and wires running from the beech trunks. Nearby, a bucket collected the resulting sap, while other equipment gathered weather data.

Researchers say monocultures, like the all-maple syrup industry, are more at risk from climate change, pests and other unpredictable threats.

So Moore sees untapped potential in other common species, like the American beech. It’s found throughout New Hampshire’s forests, farms and sugar bushes – almost like a tree weed.

Read the rest of the story at New Hampshire Public Radio’s website.