We review measured rates of soil respiration from terrestrial and wetland ecosystems to define the annual global CO2 flux from soils, to identify uncertainties in the global flux estimate, and to investigate the influences of temperature, precipitation, and vegetation on soil respiration rates. The annual global CO2 flux from soils is estimated to average (± S.D.) 68 ± 4 PgC/ yr, based on extrapolations from biome land areas. Relatively few measurements of soil respiration exist from arid, semi-arid, and tropical regions; these regions should be priorities for additional research. On a global scale, soil respiration rates are positively correlated with mean annual air temperatures and mean annual precipitation. There is a close correlation between mean annual net primary productivity (NPP) of different vegetation biomes and their mean annual soil respiration rates, with soil respiration averaging 24% higher than mean annual NPP. This difference represents a minimum estimate of the contribution of root respiration to the total soil CO2efflux. Estimates of soil C turnover rates range from 500 years in tundra and peaty wetlands to 10 years in tropical savannas. We also evaluate the potential impacts of human activities on soil respiration rates, with particular focus on land use changes, soil fertilization, irrigation and drainage, and climate changes. The impacts of human activities on soil respiration rates are poorly documented, and vary among sites. Of particular importance are potential changes in temperatures and precipitation. Based on a review of in situ measurements, the Q10 value for total soil respiration has a median value of 2.4. Increased soil respiration with global warming is likely to provide a positive feedback to the greenhouse effect.