Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



Thesis Type

Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors

First Advisor

Nicholas J Gotelli


maple sugaring, carbon, nitrogen, leaf litter, decomposition, Vermont


The purpose of this study was to examine if tapping sugar maple trees alters the decomposition of their leaf litter. To do this, leaf litter collection baskets were placed in tapped and untapped stands of maple trees in Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill, Vermont. Litter was allowed to collect in the baskets throughout the fall 2016 season, and then the leaves were dried, weighed, and run through a nutrient analyzer. The nutrient analysis yielded percent nitrogen by weight, percent carbon by weight, and carbon nitrogen ratios for each sample. It was found that the leaf litter of untapped samples had significantly more nitrogen and significantly lower carbon nitrogen ratios than the leaf litter collected in the tapped stand. This indicates a likely change in the decomposition of the leaves in each stand, because nutrient ratios have been shown to alter decomposition rates for leaves. One of the implications of slowed decomposition is retarded nutrient cycling, which could lead to a reduction in available nitrogen, a limiting nutrient for sugar maples, in the forest’s soil. More research should be done to determine the origin of the difference in nutrients. Additionally, a longer-term study is necessary to monitor the decomposition rates in this forest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.