Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Forest Science (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Andrew J. Storer


Acer saccharum Marsh., is one of the most valuable trees in the northern hardwood forests. Severe dieback was recently reported by area foresters in the western Upper Great Lakes Region. Sugar Maple has had a history of dieback over the last 100 years throughout its range and different variables have been identified as being the predisposing and inciting factors in different regions at different times. Some of the most common factors attributed to previous maple dieback episodes were insect defoliation outbreaks, inadequate precipitation, poor soils, atmospheric deposition, fungal pathogens, poor management, or a combination of these. The current sugar maple dieback was evaluated to determine the etiology, severity, and change in dieback on both industry and public lands. A network of 120 sugar maple health evaluation plots was established in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan, northern Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota and evaluated annually from 2009-2012. Mean sugar maple crown dieback between 2009-2012 was 12.4% (ranging from 0.8-75.5%) across the region. Overall, during the sampling period, mean dieback decreased by 5% but individual plots and trees continued to decline.

Relationships were examined between sugar maple dieback and growth, habitat conditions, ownership, climate, soil, foliage nutrients, and the maple pathogen sapstreak. The only statistically significant factor was found to be a high level of forest floor impacts due to exotic earthworm activity. Sugar maple on soils with lower pH had less earthworm impacts, less dieback, and higher growth rates than those on soils more favorable to earthworms. Nutritional status of foliage and soil was correlated with dieback and growth suggesting perturbation of nutrient cycling may be predisposing or contributing to dieback. The previous winter's snowfall totals, length of stay on the ground, and number of days with freezing temperatures had a significant positive relationship to sugar maple growth rates. Sapstreak disease, Ceratocystis virescens, may be contributing to dieback in some stands but was not related to the amount of dieback in the region.

The ultimate goal of this research is to help forest managers in the Great Lakes Region prevent, anticipate, reduce, and/or salvage stands with dieback and loss in the future. An improved understanding of the complex etiology associated with sugar maple dieback in the Upper Great Lakes Region is necessary to make appropriate silvicultural decisions. Forest Health education helps increase awareness and proactive forest management in the face of changing forest ecosystems. Lessons are included to assist educators in incorporating forest health into standard biological disciplines at the secondary school curricula.