Water availability creates global thresholds in multidimensional soil biodiversity and functions

Jianwei Zhang, Youzhi Feng*, Fernando T. Maestre, Miguel Berdugo, Juntao Wang, Claudia Coleine, Tadeo Sáez-Sandino, Laura García-Velázquez, Brajesh K. Singh, Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Soils support an immense portion of Earth’s biodiversity and maintain multiple ecosystem functions which are essential for human well-being. Environmental thresholds are known to govern global vegetation patterns, but it is still unknown whether they can be used to predict the distribution of soil organisms and functions across global biomes. Using a global field survey of 383 sites across contrasting climatic and vegetation conditions, here we showed that soil biodiversity and functions exhibited pervasive nonlinear patterns worldwide and are mainly governed by water availability (precipitation and potential evapotranspiration). Changes in water availability resulted in drastic shifts in soil biodiversity (bacteria, fungi, protists and invertebrates) and soil functions including plant–microbe interactions, plant productivity, soil biogeochemical cycles and soil carbon sequestration. Our findings highlight that crossing specific water availability thresholds can have critical consequences for the provision of essential ecosystem services needed to sustain our planet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1002-1011
Number of pages10
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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