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Fisher, Br, .; D'amato, An, .; Gould, Ra, .
University of Vermont
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Our project has five mutually supportive objectives:Objective 1: Understand how the intensity of maple sugar production affects biodiversity at plot andlandscape scalesWe hypothesize that species and functional composition, richness and abundance will be affected by theintensity of maple sugar production through the pathway where intensity affects tree species compositionand vertical complexity of the understory and structure at the stand and landscape scale. We will test thisby undertaking biodiversity surveys across a gradient of maple production landscapes--from stands ofmixed composition and low intensity production (e.g. less than 500 taps) to stands of predominately sugarmaple in syrup production (e.g. 100,000 taps). This work will focus on two important indicator taxa: birdsand ants (Gardner et al. 2008, Edwards et al. 2014). We will use well established protocols (see methodsbelow), but also scope and test the use of soundscape detection techniques for birds in sugar maplelandscapes. During our first field season, we will scope the feasibility of lost-cost detection methods formammal diversity on the landscape. The goal will be to more directly link management techniques withmammalian species of concern in the Northern Forest (e.g. Woodland vole, American martin).Alternatively this work may take a modeling approach utilizing existing data. The approach will bediscussed at the inception meeting of the project if the proposal is successful.Objective 2: Assess the impact of maple production on biophysical ecosystem services delivered byworking forest landscapesWe hypothesize that the intensity of maple production will impact the delivery of ecosystem servicesheterogeneously across working forest landscapes. We will focus on two main areas of ecosystem serviceprovision 1) Carbon sequestration and storage and 2) Ecosystem resistance and resilience to invasivespecies, pest pathogens and extreme climatic events. Carbon storage and sequestration, in addition tothe ecological roles they play in forest ecosystems, are two functions of forests that have direct impacton human welfare in their roles in climate change mitigation. Additionally, the ability of forest ecosystemsto resist invasive species and be resilient to pest and pathogen outbreaks and extreme climatic eventshave direct impacts on the long-term economic viability of working forest landscapes. We will test ourhypothesis by undertaking forest inventories across the same gradient of maple production intensitiesmeasuring forest composition), invasive species occurrence and density, and indicators of vulnerability toinvasion.Objective 3: Understand the socio-economic outcomes (including cultural ecosystem services) of mapleproduction across the landscape with respect to the scale and intensity of maple sugar productionWe hypothesize that more intensive maple production practices will deliver greater net financial returnsper unit area than less intense production practices, but those gains may come at a cost to biodiversityand ecosystem services delivery. We will conduct a financial analysis to see how the net benefits varyacross management practices given the current financial state of the sugarbush owners. This gives us anadditional equity lens since some producers will not have the same access to capital (e.g. a LapierreHyperbrix evaporator) as others, and therefore productivity gains may represent a net benefit for someproducers and a net cost for others. This will also allow us to look at the socio-economic barriers to largescaleproduction, which likely require access to levels of capital that could leave many of Vermont'sproducers behind and therefore exacerbate existing inequalities across producers from differenteconomic strata. We will test our hypothesis through a series of surveys, interviews and secondary dataanalyses (e.g. census data and grand lists) triangulating the net private and social returns to differentproduction practices and 'who' has the means to undertake such practices. Finally, we will collect data(both qualitative and quantitative) to better understand how stewardship and heritage values play a rolein sugar bush management. This information on cultural ecosystem services and relational values canshed light on the social feasibility of alternative management approaches.Objective 4: Modelling biodiversity, ecosystem service and economics tradeoffs across the NorthernForest landscapeWe will use a spatial modeling environment to take statistical models developed in Objectives 1-3 andextrapolate these models across the Northern Forest. The primary goal is to estimate the biodiversity,ecosystem service and financial values across the region with respect to maple production. We will alsoidentify areas of concern for species of concern and areas of opportunity for maple production. We willthen develop a series of scenarios (e.g. maximum production - where private forest ownership is overlaidwith sugar maple viability) to deliver potential social costs and benefits for the region over the next several decades depending on the climatic, social and policy conditions that could affect maple production. Thesescenarios will be generated in partnership with collaborators and maple producers throughout the project.Objective 5: Evaluating if bird-friendly maple tastes better and can return a price premiumWe will use a field experiment to test whether certified bird friendly maple syrup tastes better that noncertifiedsyrup and if consumers are willing to pay a premium for bird friendly maple syrup. Participantswill take part in a free maple syrup tasting, score the flavor of certified versus non-certified bird friendlymaple, and then have the opportunity to purchase the maple syrup. We will have blind and opentreatments, control for ordering effects, and elicit a bounded willingness-to-pay premium (see Bateman,Fisher et al. 2010). The results of such an experiment can help to inform VMSMA and individual producersabout two phenomena: (1) whether consumers report (imagined or real) differential flavor profiles givendifferent production techniques, and (2) whether consumers are willing to pay more for biodiversityfriendlytechniques, whether or not they perceive a flavor improvement. The results of this experimentmay inform producers desire to engage in such certification programs and market their products as such.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Policy and Planning
Predictive Microbiology