and state monitoring: The recovery of storm-damaged sugar bushes in
northern New York
Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture and the
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
the January 1998 ice storm, Cornell University undertook a study with
the US Forest Service and the NY Department of Environmental Conservation
to assess the damage and recovery of New York sugarbushes. Using the
ice storm damage assessment protocol established by the Forest Service,
sixty plots in twelve locations were measured and established in 1998,
and were then monitored annually. Ten locations are in Clinton and St.
Lawrence Counties (five each), which comprise the most severely damaged
regions. Franklin and Essex Counties each contain one location.
The study follows
the growth and health conditions of 285 trees, most of which are sugar
maple. Thanks to cooperating maple producers, a tremendous amount
of information has been recorded and forwarded to the USDA Forest
Service. While initial damage was significant, these data show good
recovery in some sugar bushes and few problems with insects and disease.
In fact, large diameter mature trees within the study plots that were
severely damaged are continuing to express an increase in diameter
and maintain taphole closure. The crown branches that survived the
storm along with newer epicormic branches are not showing large amounts
The annual monitoring data and observations suggest that uneven-aged
sugarbushes sustained the least amount of ice storm-related damage.
Uneven-aged stands, consisting of 5-20 inch diameter sugar maples,
may have offered the greatest crown support. These stands exhibited
the lowest percentages of crown damage and tree failure. Young even-aged
stands (saplings and small-diameter trees) also did not suffer high
percentages of damage and are now providing enough shade to sustain
medium to heavy maple regeneration.
stands suffered the worst crown damage. Mature and overmature sugar
maples generally have large diameter limbs supporting a larger area
of leaf and twig surface. These large limbs carried heavier ice loads
and were less flexible than the limbs of younger trees. The damage
in these stands has allowed for increased amounts of sunlight to reach
the forest floor. This additional sunlight has changed the microclimate
of the forest floor considerably, favoring the growth of many light-tolerant
plant species (e.g., raspberry and blackberry) over shade-tolerant
sugar maple seedlings.
When the fourth year of data were collected in August 2001, all
sugarbushes were experiencing severe drought conditions brought on
by rainfall levels 6-7 inches below normal. Though many of the even-aged
mature sugarbushes were showing increased amounts of ground cover,
many of these shallow-rooted plants were heavily wilted as a result
of the dry weather. The sugar maple saplings and trees appeared to
be growing well, though leaf curling and lack of deep green color
foliage was observed occasionally. Leaf margins did not show any signs
of browning or burning during this period of deficit rainfall for
most of the region.
insect pest most often observed was the maple leaf cutter, present in
medium to high numbers in all 12 sugarbush locations. The maple leaf
cutter was not observed in large numbers during the previous three years'
field monitoring. Damage as a result of the sugar maple borer during
pre-storm years, however, has been noted in a number of the sugarbush
one cooperating producer stated that many heavily ice-damaged over-mature
sugar maples within other areas of his sugarbush were dying or dead
as could be expected, observations in our study plots indicate that
the majority of sugar maple trees are continuing to survive. Producers
are very interested in the health and recovery of their trees and have
responded by tapping conservatively. Many producers have also converted
to the use of small diameter spouts, which offer promise for lower impact
to the tree-tapping zone. The ice storm sugarbush monitoring project
is planned to continue through the 2002-growing season. A report of
the 5-year project will completed at that time.
levels by area were determined with aerial (left) and ground surveys
(right). Click on the images to view them in better detail.
was provided by: Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life
Sciences; USDA Forest Service; New York Department of Environmental
Conservation; and maple producers in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, and St.