Keweenaw Bay Indian Community - Increasing sugar maple genetic diversity


KBIC staff are locating potential sugar maple seed sources, developing a project design and study methodology, and identifying other project partners.

Sugar maple is a important species for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), both economically and culturally. KBIC is pursuing this adaptation project to demonstrate a proactive approach to maintain sugar maple as a dominant species within the reservation landscape in response to climate change.  Management will include a group selection harvest to create gaps throughout the stand. After harvest, seeds collected from sugar maple in different areas throughout its natural range (from Maine down the Appalachian Mts to Illinois) will be germinated and planted within the gaps. The project will be designed and monitored as a scientific study. KBIC forestry and natural resources staff developed this project using the Adaptation Workbook at the Forest Adaptation Planning and Practices training in August 2013. 

Contact: Stephen Handler

Project Location and Partners

The project area is a 234-acre tract of Fee land located on the L’Anse Reservation in Baraga County, Michigan. This stand has a southern aspect, so it generally receives more solar radiation and exhibits warmer and drier conditions.  Sugar maple is currently the dominant species in the overstory and in the seedling layer. Potential partners at this time include the U.S. Forest Service, Michigan Technological University, and State nurseries.

Climate Change and Sugar Maple

Increased temperatures and altered precipitation regimes will likely have negative effects on local sugar maple populations.  Suitable habitat for sugar maple is predicted to decrease in the Keweenaw Peninsula as climate change accelerates. It isn't likely that all sugar maple will be extirpated from the KBIC reservation, as refugia (areas where the landscape-level climate will be moderated by topographical features such as cold air drainages and northern aspect slopes) will still be present in small pockets. Maple sugaring is an important activity for the KBIC, which may be threatened in the future.


Adaptation Actions

The two main adaption actions proposed for this site are to enhance intra-species genetic diversity through group selection harvest and establishment of sugar maple genetic variants.  If sugar maple variants do not establish and increase genetic diversity of the sugar maple stand, group selection gaps will release understory species and allow for mid-tolerant species to establish.  

Expected outcomes for this project include:

  • Establish sugar maple seedlings from various plant hardiness zones in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
  • Determine if variants are capable of competing with local sugar maple.
  • Determine if variants can outperform local sugar maple on a warmer and drier site.
  • Enhance genetic diversity of the local sugar maple population.

Current Project Status

A stand exam was completed during the summer of 2013. The KBIC Tribal Council approved the project proposal in the fall of 2013. Contacts have been made with U.S. Forest Service Toumey Nursery to determine seed sources. Michigan Technological University has been consulted and has expressed interest in potentially replicating the project and offering student assistance during various stages of the project.  


Last updated: 11/1/13.