Woodland - Summer 2019 - 18

Seedlings
Continued

TURNING MAPLE SYRUP FORESTS INTO BIRD-FRIENDLY HABITAT
SOURCE: CORNELL UNIVERSITY

High in the branches of a maple
tree sit the tattered remains of a
muddy, grassy bird nest. I train my
binoculars on the small lump, but
it was built the previous year and
is very much empty. Closer to eye
level, it's harder to miss the metal
spigot and tangle of blue tubing
attached to the tree's trunk. This
tree is one of the 6,000 tapped for
Cornell University's signature maple
syrup, and last year it also raised a
family of birds.
Birds and maple syrup share the
same critical ingredient: healthy
northeastern forests. Every year,
millions of birds breed, feed and
fledge in the same forests that are
tapped for syrup (called "sugar
bushes"). As long as a sugar
bush stays tapped, it will remain
a forest and not be cleared for
development.
Now the Cornell Lab of
Ornithology is partnering
with the Cornell Maple
Program to help sugar bushes
meet their full potential for bird
habitat, sweetening the deal for
birds and for the bottom line in the
university's own sugar bush.
From Maple Monocultures to
Bird-Friendly Forests
Maple-syrup producers exert
considerable control over the
habitat in a sugar bush. What
is good for birds in a forest is
also good for maple producers
in the long run: the health and
sustainability of the crop.

18 WOODLAND * Summer 2019

Aaron Wightman '97 oversees
operations at the Arnot Research
Forest in a Cornell Universityowned forest south of Ithaca.
After learning Audubon Vermont
has worked with nearly 40 of that
state's maple syrup producers on
the Bird-Friendly Maple Project
since 2014, he approached
then-Cornell Lab of Ornithology
conservation biologist Ron
Rohrbaugh about managing a
sugar bush for birds. 
Wightman was interested in
helping the birds, but also in
helping the forest he manages.
The understory of the oldest
part of the Arnot sugar bush was
thinned decades ago and deer
have kept the shrub layer from
regenerating, Wightman explains
as we walk through the Cornell
research forest on a delicately sunlit
May morning. Here, slender maples
tower over us like an arched
cathedral ceiling. Tiny beech and
hornbeam seedlings pop out of the
leaf litter - but there is nothing but
empty space between the canopy
and forest floor.
Forest managers aim for an
ideal diversity of tree species at
a diversity of ages, with layers
of branches and leaves at the
top, middle and bottom. Without
younger generations of trees
growing up underneath the canopy
layer, the entire forest community
faces an abrupt decline when all
those oldest-generation trees begin
to die.

Birds suffer, too, from a lack
of diversity in sugar-bush habitat.
For example, without a conifer
component among the maple
trees, birds like the blue-headed
vireo, blackburnian warbler and
sharp-shinned hawk are missing
valuable nesting habitat. Fruiting
trees and shrubs in a sugar bush,
like black cherry, also provide
critical energy supplies for birds
fueling up for migration.
Next to the monoculture in
Arnot Forest stands a plot that is
a perfect model for bird-friendly
management. The bright blue
tubing disappears and reappears
among the thick understory,
winding around a few snags with
holes drilled out by woodpeckers.
There are more than just maples
here; we stop to admire a blackthroated green warbler flitting
around in a hemlock, and a scarlet
tanager in an oak tree.
Conservation biologist Steve
Hagenbuch, who heads up
Audubon Vermont's Bird-Friendly
Maple Project, said sugar bushes
that contain at least 25 percent
non-maple trees support a greater
diversity and abundance of birds
than stands growing only maples.
And he said syrup producers in
the Audubon Vermont program are
finding that managing a sugar bush
for tree diversity is good for sugaring
sustainability, too. A University of
Vermont study found that sugar
bushes with a bird-friendly ratio of
tree diversity experienced insect



Woodland - Summer 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Woodland - Summer 2019

Overstory
Foresets and Families
Forest Interactions
The Family Forest Carbon Program
2019 Regional Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Finalists Announced
Tree Farmers Visit Washington to Advocate for Family Forest Interests
Tools and Resources
Woodland - Summer 2019 - Intro
Woodland - Summer 2019 - cover1
Woodland - Summer 2019 - cover2
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 3
Woodland - Summer 2019 - Overstory
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 5
Woodland - Summer 2019 - Foresets and Families
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 7
Woodland - Summer 2019 - Forest Interactions
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 9
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 10
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 11
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 12
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 13
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 14
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 15
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 16
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 17
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 18
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 19
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 20
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 21
Woodland - Summer 2019 - The Family Forest Carbon Program
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 23
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 24
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 25
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 26
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 27
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 2019 Regional Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Finalists Announced
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 29
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 30
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 31
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 32
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 33
Woodland - Summer 2019 - Tree Farmers Visit Washington to Advocate for Family Forest Interests
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 35
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 36
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 37
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 38
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 39
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 40
Woodland - Summer 2019 - Tools and Resources
Woodland - Summer 2019 - 42
Woodland - Summer 2019 - cover3
Woodland - Summer 2019 - cover4
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