Carbon content and climate variability drive global soil bacterial diversity patterns

Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo, Fernando T. Maestre, Peter B. Reich, Pankaj Trivedi, Yui Osanai, Yu Rong Liu, Kelly Hamonts, Thomas C. Jeffries, Brajesh K. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Despite the vital role of microorganisms for ecosystem functioning and human welfare, our understanding of their global diversity and biogeographical patterns lags significantly behind that of plants and animals. We conducted a meta- Analysis including ~600 soil samples from all continents to evaluate the biogeographical patterns and drivers of bacterial diversity in terrestrial ecosystems at the global scale. Similar to what has been found with plants and animals, the diversity of soil bacteria in the Southern Hemisphere decreased from the equator to Antarctica. However, soil bacteria showed similar levels of diversity across the Northern Hemisphere. The composition of bacterial communities followed dissimilar patterns between hemispheres, as the Southern and Northern Hemispheres were dominated by Actinobacteria and Acidobacteria, respectively. However, Proteobacteria was co-dominant in both hemispheres. Moreover, we found a decrease in soil bacterial diversity with altitude. Climatic features (e.g., high diurnal temperature range and low temperature) were correlated with the lower diversity found at high elevations, but geographical gradients in soil total carbon and species turnover were important drivers of the observed latitudinal patterns. We thus found both parallels and differences in the biogeographical patterns of aboveground vs. soil bacterial diversity. Our findings support previous studies that highlighted soil pH, spatial influence, and organic matter as important drivers of bacterial diversity and composition. Furthermore, our results provide a novel integrative view of how climate and soil factors influence soil bacterial diversity at the global scale, which is critical to improve ecosystem and earth system simulation models and for formulating sustainable ecosystem management and conservation policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-390
Number of pages18
JournalEcological Monographs
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the use of data from NEON, which are made available subject to the NEON Data Policy. We also thank Catriona Macdonald and Loïc Nazaries for assistance in data gathering, Melissa S. Martín and Jasmine Grinyer for revising the English of this manuscript. This research is supported by the ARC project DP13010484. F. T. Maestre is supported by the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC Grant agreement 242658 (BIOCOM) and by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (BIOMOD project, CGL2013-44661-R). The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by the Ecological Society of America.


  • bacterial composition
  • biodiversity
  • diurnal temperature range
  • global biogeography
  • soil carbon
  • terrestrial ecosystems


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