Climate-resilient Sugarbush Forest Restoration
Early in 2020, the Kalamazoo Nature Center (KNC) began restoring the land adjacent to our Alice Batts Apkarian and Ara Apkarian Maple Sugar Shack. Over the last decade, this area was increasingly overcome with dead ash trees and invasive shrubs. Our Conservation Stewardship team had worked to clear out most of the dead trees and to remove aggressive, non-native plants. Thanks to the help of several community donors and a 2020 tree planting grant from the Michigan Arbor Day Alliance, KNC staff has now planted diverse trees and shrubs in this location and completed the initial restoration effort.
In October 2020, KNC staff members and local high school students from KNC’s Heronwood program planted 66 trees and shrubs of 14 different species at the restoration site, investing in KNC’s ecological health and future programming. The project gave students an opportunity to work alongside natural resources professionals, see restoration work in action, and have quality time in nature during a difficult year.
Local leaders in the Citizens’ Climate Lobby also offered financial support for this project to help KNC become more resilient in a very different climate future. The restoration plan targeted species that are typical of a beech-maple forest, but also included species like hackberry and chinkapin oak that can tolerate a variety of conditions. Sadly, sugar maple trees are not expected to adapt well to the climate conditions projected for the southwest Michigan region of the future, though they are very meaningful to KNC traditions. As an experiment in adaptation for our sugarbush restoration, the team sourced sugar maple trees grown from Ohio seed sources. We hope that their slightly more southern genotypes may be better adapted to the likely warmer temperatures of our future, and that we can continue to offer the Maple Sugar Festival for generations to come.