Drivers and trends of global soil microbial carbon over two decades

Guillaume Patoine*, Nico Eisenhauer, Simone Cesarz, Helen R.P. Phillips, Xiaofeng Xu, Lihua Zhang, Carlos A. Guerra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
60 Downloads (Pure)


Soil microorganisms are central to sustain soil functions and services, like carbon and nutrient cycling. Currently, we only have a limited understanding of the spatial-temporal dynamics of soil microorganisms, restricting our ability to assess long-term effects of climate and land-cover change on microbial roles in soil biogeochemistry. This study assesses the temporal trends in soil microbial biomass carbon and identifies the main drivers of biomass change regionally and globally to detect the areas sensitive to these environmental factors. Here, we combined a global soil microbial biomass carbon data set, random forest modelling, and environmental layers to predict spatial-temporal dynamics of microbial biomass carbon stocks from 1992 to 2013. Soil microbial biomass carbon stocks decreased globally by 3.4 ± 3.0% (mean ± 95% CI) between 1992 and 2013 for the predictable regions, equivalent to 149 Mt being lost over the period, or ~1‰ of soil C. Northern areas with high soil microbial carbon stocks experienced the strongest decrease, mostly driven by increasing temperatures. In contrast, land-cover change was a weaker global driver of change in microbial carbon, but had, in some cases, important regional effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4195
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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