Contribution of soil algae to the global carbon cycle

Vincent E.J. Jassey* (Corresponding author), Romain Walcker, Paul Kardol, Stefan Geisen, Thierry Heger, Mariusz Lamentowicz, Samuel Hamard, Enrique Lara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


Soil photoautotrophic prokaryotes and micro-eukaryotes – known as soil algae – are, together with heterotrophic microorganisms, a constitutive part of the microbiome in surface soils. Similar to plants, they fix atmospheric carbon (C) through photosynthesis for their own growth, yet their contribution to global and regional biogeochemical C cycling still remains quantitatively elusive. Here, we compiled an extensive dataset on soil algae to generate a better understanding of their distribution across biomes and predict their productivity at a global scale by means of machine learning modelling. We found that, on average, (5.5 ± 3.4) × 106 algae inhabit each gram of surface soil. Soil algal abundance especially peaked in acidic, moist and vegetated soils. We estimate that, globally, soil algae take up around 3.6 Pg C per year, which corresponds to c. 6% of the net primary production of terrestrial vegetation. We demonstrate that the C fixed by soil algae is crucial to the global C cycle and should be integrated into land-based efforts to mitigate C emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-76
Number of pages13
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • biogeography
  • microbial photosynthesis
  • net primary productivity (NPP)
  • photoautotrophs
  • soil carbon (C) cycle
  • soil microbiome
  • international
  • Plan_S-Compliant_NO


Dive into the research topics of 'Contribution of soil algae to the global carbon cycle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this