Are there links between responses of soil microbes and ecosystem functioning to elevated CO2, N deposition and warming? A global perspective

Pablo Garcia-Palacios, Martijn L. Vandegehuchte, E. Ashley Shaw, Marie Dam, Keith H. Post, Kelly S. Ramirez, Zachary A. Sylvain, Cecilia Milano de Tomasel, Diana H. Wall

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In recent years, there has been an increase in research to understand how global changes' impacts on soil biota translate into altered ecosystem functioning. However, results vary between global change effects, soil taxa, and ecosystem processes studied, and a synthesis of relationships is lacking. Therefore, here we initiate such a synthesis to assess whether the effect size of global change drivers (elevated CO2, N deposition, and warming) on soil microbial abundance is related with the effect size of these drivers on ecosystem functioning (plant biomass, soil C cycle, and soil N cycle) using meta-analysis and structural equation modeling. For N deposition and warming, the global change effect size on soil microbes was positively associated with the global change effect size on ecosystem functioning, and these relationships were consistent across taxa and ecosystem processes. However, for elevated CO2, such links were more taxon and ecosystem process specific. For example, fungal abundance responses to elevated CO2 were positively correlated with those of plant biomass but negatively with those of the N cycle. Our results go beyond previous assessments of the sensitivity of soil microbes and ecosystem processes to global change, and demonstrate the existence of general links between the responses of soil microbial abundance and ecosystem functioning. Further we identify critical areas for future research, specifically altered precipitation, soil fauna, soil community composition, and litter decomposition, that are need to better quantify the ecosystem consequences of global change impacts on soil biodiversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1590-1600
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • bacteria
  • carbon cycling
  • fungi
  • global change
  • meta-analysis
  • microorganisms
  • nitrogen cycling
  • plant biomass
  • international


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