With lively fall colors that blanket much of the eastern United States, the sugar maple plays a critical role in maintaining healthy forests. It draws water from deep, moist layers of soil and spreads it to drier layers near the top, which benefits other plant species. As one of the most economically important trees in the U.S., the sugar maple is the source for maple syrup and its hard, dense wood is highly prized in furniture-making and flooring.
A projected 6 to 10 degree temperature rise due to global warming would result in drier conditions in the Northeast, which do not favor the sugar maple. These trees prefer colder, wetter climates, and would lose their current range to tree species that can tolerate drier conditions, such as oak, hickory, and pine. If that happens, New England and much of the Midwest could lose one of the most enduring symbols of autumn.
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