Andrew J. Burton

Andrew J. Burton faculty portrait
"Every day in the woods is a good day - don't get so caught up in the work at hand that you forget to look around and appreciate where you are."


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Professor, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Director, Ford Center and Research Forest

Director, Ecosystem Science Center

  • PhD, Forest Science (Forest Ecology), Michigan Technological University
  • MS, Forestry (Soils and Hydrology), Michigan State University
  • BS, Forestry, Michigan State University

Belowground Processes and Ecosystem Ecology

Forest ecosystems have constantly changed through time. The difficulty today is understanding the influence of man relative to the background of natural change. We impact our forests both intentionally through management and unintentionally by creating pollution, introducing exotic pests, and altering our atmosphere. Are these impacts so severe that our forest ecosystems cannot be sustained? Will large-scale declines in forest health and productivity occur, or will our forests simply undergo gradual changes in composition as they adjust to a new environment? My research integrates soil science, hydrology, plant physiology and ecology in order to determine how ecosystems are affected by and adjust to environmental stresses and human manipulations. By understanding how forests are likely to change, we will be able to adjust our activities now to create a future in which forests can continue to provide the goods and services to which we have become accustomed.

Our students will manage the forests of the future. I enjoy taking them into the field so they can not only learn how our ecosystems work, but they also can see it, feel it and appreciate it. It is very important to me that our students learn and succeed. I am willing to work as hard as I can at making their education a success. I know I can contribute to our understanding of forest ecosystems through my research, but I also know that what I can do is far less than what hundreds of well-trained students will accomplish.

Areas of Expertise

  • Forest responses to global change factors
  • Belowground processes
  • Carbon and nutrient cycling
  • Physiological ecology of tree roots
  • Undergraduate involvement in research

Recent Publications

  • Kaarakka, L., P. Tamminen, A. Saarsalmi, M. Kukkola, H.S. Helmisaari, and A.J. Burton. 2014. Effects of repeated whole-tree harvesting on soil properties and tree growth in a Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) stand. Forest Ecology and Management 313:180-187. Read More
  • Talhelm, A.F., K.S. Pregitzer, M.E. Kubiske, D.R. Zak, C.E. Campany, A.J. Burton, R.E. Dickson, G.R. Hendrey, J.G. Isebrands, K.F. Lewin, J. Nagy, and D.F. Karnosky. 2014. Elevated carbon dioxide and ozone alter productivity and carbon storage in northern temperate forests. Global Change Biology (published on-line May 26, 2014) print version in press. Read More
  • Yeboah, D., A.J. Burton, A.J. Storer, E. Opuni-Frimpong. 2014. Variation in wood density and carbon content of tropical plantation tree species from Ghana. New Forests 45:35-52. Read More
  • Jarvi, M.P., and A.J. Burton. 2013. Acclimation and soil moisture constrain sugar maple root respiration in experimentally warmed soil. Tree Physiology 33:949-959. Read More
  • Talhelm, A.F., A.J. Burton, K.S. Pregitzer, and M.A. Campione. 2013. Chronic nitrogen deposition reduces the abundance of dominant forest understory and groundcover species. Forest Ecology and Management 293:39-48. Read More
  • Wei, H., J. Gou, Y. Yordanov, H. Zhang, W. Jones, R. Thakur, and A.J. Burton. 2013. Global transcriptomic profiling of aspen trees under elevated [CO2] to identify potential molecular mechanisms responsible for enhanced radial growth. Journal of Plant Research 126:305-320. Read More
  • Burton, A.J., J.C. Jarvey, M.P, Jarvi, D.R. Zak, and K.S. Pregitzer. 2012. Chronic N deposition alters root respiration-tissue N relationship in northern hardwood forests. Global Change Biology 18:258-266. Read More
  • Zak, D.R., K.S. Pregitzer, M.E. Kubiske, and A.J. Burton. 2012. Atmospheric CO2 and O3 alter competition for soil nitrogen in developing forests. Global Change Biology 18:1480-1488. Read More

Recent Funding

  • 9/2013 – 8/2018 National Science Foundation “Collaborative LTREB Renewal: Long-Term Ecosystem Response to Chronic Atmospheric Nitrate Deposition”, $156,056, A.J. Burton (PI)
  • 8/2012 – 7/2015 National Science Foundation “Facilities Improvements for Ecological Research at Michigan Tech's Ford Center and Research Forest”, $343,639. A.J. Burton (PI), R. Froese, O. Gailing, L. Artman, and K. Price,
  • 9/2012 – 8/2016 National Science Foundation “SEP: Sustainable Forest-Based Biofuel Pathways to Hydrocarbon Transportation Fuels: Biomass Production, Torrefaction, Pyrolysis, Catalytic Upgrading, and Combustion”, $1,800,000. D.R. Shonnard (PI), E. Bar Ziv, A.J. Burton (co-PI, Thrust 1 leader), A.L. Mayer, and J.D. Naber

Research Projects

  • Michigan Gradient Study - Long-term Effects of Nitrogen Depositon on Northern Hardwood Forests (1987 - present)
  • Soil Warming in Northern Forests (2008 - present)
  • Aspen FACE/Northern Forest Ecosystem Experiment (1998 - present)
  • Carbon Sequestration in Tropical Forests (2009 - present)


  • FW3020 Forest Ecology (Fall Semester, 3 cr - 2 h lecture, 3 h lab)
  • FW5100 Advanced Terrestrial Ecology (Spring Semester, 3 cr - 3 h lecture)
  • FW4810 Integrated Resource Assessment ("Capstone", Fall Semester, 2 cr lab section)