EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Effects of plant diversity on soil carbon in diverse ecosystems: a global meta-analysis

Han Chen
Han Chen
  • Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Canada (

Soil organic carbon (SOC) is a valuable resource for mediating global climate change and securing food production. Despite an alarming rate of global plant diversity loss, uncertainties concerning the effects of plant diversity on SOC remain, because plant diversity not only stimulates litter inputs via increased productivity, thus enhancing SOC, but also stimulates microbial respiration, thus reducing SOC. By analysing 1001 paired observations of plant mixtures and corresponding monocultures from 121 publications, we show that both SOC content and stock are on average 5 and 8% higher in species mixtures than in monocultures. These positive mixture effects increase over time and are more pronounced in deeper soils. Microbial biomass carbon, an indicator of SOC release and formation, also increases, but the proportion of microbial biomass carbon in SOC is lower in mixtures. Moreover, these species‐mixture effects are consistent across forest, grassland, and cropland systems and are independent of background climates. Our results indicate that converting 50% of global forests from mixtures to monocultures would release an average of 2.70 Pg C from soil annually over a period of 20 years: about 30% of global annual fossil‐fuel emissions. Our study highlights the importance of plant diversity preservation for the maintenance of soil carbon sequestration in discussions of global climate change policy.

How to cite: Chen, H.: Effects of plant diversity on soil carbon in diverse ecosystems: a global meta-analysis, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-1425,, 2019