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Marie-Anne de Graaff

Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Year arrived at BSU:   2010

Mailing Address:Picture1 - Copy
Department of Biology
Boise State University
Boise, ID 83725-1515

Office Location:   Science Building, Room 115
Office Number:   208-426-1256208-426-1256
Fax Number: 208-426-1040

E-Mail Address:

Academic Degrees

  • Postdoctoral Research Associate – Biosciences Division, Molecular Microbial Ecology Group, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (2008-2010)
  • Ph.D. – Environmental Science, Wageningen University, the Netherlands (2007)
  • M.Sc. – Nature conservation and development, Wageningen University, the Netherlands (2003)
  • B.Sc. – Forestry and Nature Management, Wageningen University, the Netherlands (2001)

Research Interests

Broadly our lab studies how changes in climate and land-use affect ecosystem processes that drive the global carbon cycle. We are especially interested in the question of how plant roots and soil microorganisms interact to affect soil carbon and nutrient dynamics.


Research projects


At the root of sustainable bioenergy: using genetic variation in root traits to maximize soil carbon sequestration and biomass yields

Collaborators: Julie Jastrow (ANL), Johan Six (UC-Davis), Geoff Morris (University of South Carolina) Funded by USDA-NIFA.

Land use change for bioenergy production can create substantial green house gas emissions through removal of standing vegetation and disturbance of soil carbon pools. With this project we assess: (1) whether shifting C3-dominated nonnative perennial grasslands to C4-dominated native perennial grasslands repay the carbon debt of land-use change by increasing soil carbon sequestration within the early years of establishment; (2) whether increased variation in root traits in species and cultivar mixes of native perennial grasses will enhance biomass production, soil carbon storage and the efficiency of nitrogen (N) cycling (i.e., decrease N losses); and (3) whether energy gain resulting from an increase in soil carbon storage and yield, along with a decrease in nutrient inputs and losses in low-input diverse mixtures of perennial grasses, is sufficient to offset energy gain from relatively greater biomass production in high input monocultures of perennial grasses.


Litter quality controls on the temperature sensitivity of litter and soil organic carbon decomposition

Collaborators: Julie Jastrow (ANL), Stan Wullschleger (ORNL), Melanie Mayes  (ORNL) Funded by DOE

It is uncertain which factors control the temperature sensitivity of litter decomposition. This study aims to examine how decomposition-induced changes in the quantity and quality of litter through time affect the temperature kinetics of decomposition processes. 

Root and soil depth controls on microbial utilization of labile soil carbon inputs

Collaborators: Julie Jastrow (ANL), Chris Schadt (ORNL), Stan Wullschleger (ORNL) Funded by DOE

Root derived labile carbon inputs can mediate decomposition of soil organic carbon via priming of microbial activity. A priming effect can be large or small, and positive or negative, but the mechanisms by which root-carbon controls the magnitude and direction of soil organic carbon priming is poorly understood. With this study we evaluated how subtle versus large differences in labile soil carbon availability affect microbial processing of simulated root exudate inputs and decomposition of soil organic carbon.

Precipitation impacts on soil carbon dynamics in semi-arid grasslands

Collaborators: Kevin Feris (BSU), Matt Germino (USGS), Keith Reinhardt (ISU), Kitty Lohse (ISU) Funded by NSF-EPSCoR

Precipitation shifts are expected to have a large impact on the soil carbon sink in semi arid grasslands of the Intermountain West. With this study we aim to assess how precipitation affects the quantity and quality of both above-and belowground soil carbon inputs and how these changes feed back to alter microbial decomposition processes. The experiments take place at an ecohydrological research site, located in the cold desert at the Idaho National Laboratory, which has been exposed to three precipitation treatments since 1993.


Mycorrhizal fungi in sage-steppe ecosystems

Collaborators: Marcelo Serpe (BSU); Kevin Feris (BSU) Funded by the ID National Guard

Sagebrush is an obligate mycorrhizal species. Cheatgrass invasion may reduce mycorrhizal abundance and change their communities, thereby complicating sagebrush restoration success. With this study we aim to investigate how arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) communities and abundance differ between sagebrush and cheatgrass dominated ecosystems, and how invasion by cheatgrass affects plant performance and carbon allocation to AMF in sagebrush seedlings.

Impacts of fuel reduction treatments on plant-soil feedbacks in cheatgrass dominated ecosystems of the Intermountain West 

Collaborators: David Pilliod (USGS), Mike Schinneman (USGS), Anne Halford (BLM). Funded by USGS and BLM

Invasion of Sagesteppe ecosystems by cheatgrass is a large problem in the Intermountain West. With a manipulative field experiment (PI’s Pilliod and Schinneman) we set out to assess how grazing, fuel reduction treatments (i.e. mowing, herbicide application, and a combination of both) and follow-up seedings affect the invasibility of ecosystems by cheatgrass.



Marie-Anne de Graaff  PI of the lab

Shay Gilette Laboratory coordinator – started 2010

MS. Ecology from Appalachia State University


SRatnaprabha Chittoori started 2014

Ratna investigates plant physiology, growth and development by studying genetic and environmental influences on root architecture, root exudation and carbon cycling.


Xochi Campos MS-student – started in 2011

Xochi studies how changes in precipitation affect plant-microbe interactions.

Janina Dierks MS student – Started in 2012

Janina is interested in feedbacks between mycorrhizal fungi and sagebrush plants.

HasHasini.sini Delvinne MS student – Started in 2014

Hassini studies soil carbon stabilization and destabilization processes in the Reynold’s Creek CZO.

PePeggyggy Martinez MS student – Started in 2014

Peggy studies how herbivory affects root chemistry and plant-microbe interactions


Aislinn Johns – started 2011

Aislinn studies how different types of land management affect the success of sagebrush ecosystem restoration projects.

Jaron Adkins – started 2011

Jaron studies how land conversion for cellulosic biofuel production affects soil carbon stabilization.

 Jamie Hicks – started 2010

Jamie received an REU-grant to study how altered precipitation regimes in desert ecosystems affect soil carbon dynamics.

Mac Jones – started 2012

Mac has received a grant through the honors college to study how cattle grazing in ecosystems of the Inter-Mountain West may affect soil microbial communities.

Ariane Shannon – started 2013

Mary Finnell – started 2013

Kimberly Tate – started 2014

Recent Publications

  • Smith A.P., Marin-Spiotta E., De Graaff M-A., Balser T.C. (In revision) Linking microbial ecology and soil organic matter aggregate stabilization with tropical land cover change.
  • Austreng A., De Graaff M-A., Pellant M., Pierce J., Benner S. (In revision) Large Soil Carbon Losses Follow Cheatgrass Invasion of Sagebrush.
  • De Graaff M-A., Throop H.L., Verburg P.S.J, Arnone J.A., Campos X. (2014) A synthesis of climate change and vegetation cover effects on biogeochemical cycling in shrub dominated drylands. Ecosystems.
  • De Graaff M-A., Jastrow J.D., Gillette S., Johns A., Wullschleger S.D.  (2014) Differential priming of soil carbon driven by soil depth and root impacts on carbon availability. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 69, 147-156.
  • De Graaff M-A., Six J., Jastrow J.D., Schadt C.W., Wullschleger S.D.  (2013) Variation in root architecture among switchgrass cultivars impacts root decomposition rates. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 58, 198-206.
  • De Graaff M-A., Schadt C.W., Six J., Schweitzer J.S., Rula K., Classen A.T. (2011) Elevated CO2 and plant species diversity interact to slow root decomposition. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 43, 2347-2354.
  • De Graaff M-A., Castro H., Classen A.T., Garten C.T. Schadt C.W. (2010) Root exudates mediate plant residue decomposition rates by regulating the microbial community structure. New Phytologist, 188, 1055-1064.
  • De Graaff M-A., Six J., van Kessel C. (2009) Rhizodeposition-induced decomposition increases N availability to wild and cultivated wheat genotypes. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 41, 1094-1103.
  • Hungate B.A., van Groenigen K.J., Six J., Jastrow J.D., Luo Y., de Graaff M-A., van Kessel C., Osenberg C.W. (2009) Assessing the effect of elevated CO2 on soil carbon: a comparison of four meta-analyses. Global Change Biology, 15, 2020-2034.
  • De Graaff M-A., Six J., van Kessel C. (2008) The impact of long-term elevated CO2 on C and N retention in stable SOM pools. Plant and Soil, 303, 311-321.
  • De Graaff M-A., Six J., van Kessel C. (2007) Elevated CO2 increases rhizodeposition and microbial immobilization of root-derived nitrogen. New Phytologist, 173, 778–786.
  • De Graaff M-A., van Groenigen K.J., Six J., Hungate B., van Kessel C. (2006) Interactions between plant growth and soil nutrient cycling under elevated CO2: a Meta-Analysis. Global Change Biology, 12, 1-15.
  • Van Kessel C., Boots B., de Graaff M-A., Six J. (2006) Soil C and N sequestration in a grassland following 10 years of Free Air CO2 Enrichment. Global Change Biology, 12, 1-13.
  • Van Groenigen K.J., Six J., Hungate B., de Graaff M-A., van Breemen N., van Kessel C. (2006) Element interactions limit soil carbon storage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103, 6571-6574.
  • De Graaff M-A., Six J., van Kessel C. (2006) Prolonged elevated atmospheric CO2 does not affect decomposition of plant material. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 38, 187-190.
  • Van Groenigen, K.J., de Graaff M-A., Six J., Harris D., Kuikman P., van Kessel C. (2005) The impact of elevated [CO2] on soil C and N dynamics: a meta-analysis. In: Nösberger J, Long SP, Norby RJ, Stitt M, Hendrey GR, Blum H, eds. Managed Ecosystems and CO2 Case Studies, Processes and Perspectives. Berlin Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag, 373-388.
  • De Graaff M-A., Six J., Harris D., van Kessel C. (2004) Decomposition of soil and plant carbon from pasture systems after 9 years of exposure to elevated CO2: impact on C cycling and modeling. Global Change Biology, 10, 1922-1935.


  • General Biology II (BIOL 192)
  • Ecosystem Ecology (BIOL 497/ 597)
  • Conservation Biology (BIOL 422/ 522)
  • Global Change Biology (BIOL 197)
  • General Ecology (Biol 323)
  • Graduate seminar (Biol 597)

Prospective graduate students

I’m happy to receive applications for graduate school. If you like to apply, please write me a short letter outlining why you are interested to work in my lab, how your interests would contribute to the research (see descriptions above) in the ecosystem ecology lab and why you want to go to graduate school. Thanks for your interest!

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