August 23, 2019

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The global soil community and its influence on biogeochemistry

The Science

This review paper identified global patterns of biodiversity, organic carbon, and heterotrophic respiration in soils.

The Impact

Both soil carbon and belowground microbial biomass peak at high latitudes, while biodiversity peaks at low latitudes. The emerging understanding highlighted in this paper shows strong and predictable effects of functional diversity on soil microbial respiration and soil carbon stocks, opening the door for improved modeling of soil elemental cycling.


Soils harbor a rich diversity of invertebrate and microbial life, which drives biogeochemical processes from local to global scales. Relating the biodiversity patterns of soil ecological communities to soil biogeochemistry remains an important challenge for ecologists and Earth system modelers. We review the state of science relating soil organisms to biogeochemical processes, focusing particularly on the importance of microbial community variation on decomposition and turnover of organic matter. Although there is variation in soil communities across the globe, ecologists are beginning to identify general patterns, e.g., different kinds of mycorrhizal fungi, that may contribute to predicting biogeochemical dynamics under future climate change.

Principal Investigator

Melanie Mayes
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
[email protected]

Program Manager

Daniel Stover
U.S. Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research (SC-33)
Environmental System Science
[email protected]


This work was supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research through the Terrestrial Ecosystems Science Scientific Focus Area (TES SFA) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a Department of Energy Early Career Award.


Crowther, T. W., et al. "The global soil community and its influence on biogeochemistry." Science 365 (6455), (2019).