The global contribution of soil mosses to ecosystem services

David J. Eldridge, Emilio Guirado, Peter B. Reich, Raúl Ochoa-Hueso, Miguel Berdugo, Tadeo Sáez-Sandino, José L. Blanco-Pastor, Leho Tedersoo, César Plaza, Jingyi Ding, Wei Sun, Steven Mamet, Haiying Cui, Ji Zheng He, Hang Wei Hu, Blessing Sokoya, Sebastian Abades, Fernando Alfaro, Adebola R. Bamigboye, Felipe BastidaAsunción de los Ríos, Jorge Durán, Juan J. Gaitan, Carlos A. Guerra, Tine Grebenc, Javier G. Illán, Yu Rong Liu, Thulani P. Makhalanyane, Max Mallen-Cooper, Marco A. Molina-Montenegro, José L. Moreno, Tina U. Nahberger, Gabriel F. Peñaloza-Bojacá, Sergio Picó, Ana Rey, Alexandra Rodríguez, Christina Siebe, Alberto L. Teixido, Cristian Torres-Díaz, Pankaj Trivedi, Juntao Wang, Ling Wang, Jianyong Wang, Tianxue Yang, Eli Zaady, Xiaobing Zhou, Xin Quan Zhou, Guiyao Zhou, Shengen Liu, Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Soil mosses are among the most widely distributed organisms on land. Experiments and observations suggest that they contribute to terrestrial soil biodiversity and function, yet their ecological contribution to soil has never been assessed globally under natural conditions. Here we conducted the most comprehensive global standardized field study to quantify how soil mosses influence 8 ecosystem services associated with 24 soil biodiversity and functional attributes across wide environmental gradients from all continents. We found that soil mosses are associated with greater carbon sequestration, pool sizes for key nutrients and organic matter decomposition rates but a lower proportion of soil-borne plant pathogens than unvegetated soils. Mosses are especially important for supporting multiple ecosystem services where vascular-plant cover is low. Globally, soil mosses potentially support 6.43 Gt more carbon in the soil layer than do bare soils. The amount of soil carbon associated with mosses is up to six times the annual global carbon emissions from any altered land use globally. The largest positive contribution of mosses to soils occurs under a high cover of mat and turf mosses, in less-productive ecosystems and on sandy and salty soils. Our results highlight the contribution of mosses to soil life and functions and the need to conserve these important organisms to support healthy soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-438
Number of pages9
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023

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© 2023, Crown.


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