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Keywords:

  • Carbon;
  • nitrogen;
  • phosphorus;
  • soil microbial biomass;
  • stoichiometry;
  • terrestrial ecosystems

Abstract

Aim

To estimate the concentrations, stoichiometry and storage of soil microbial biomass carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) at biome and global scales.

Location

Global.

Method

We collected 3422 data points to summarize the concentrations and stoichiometry of C, N and P in soils, soil microbial biomass at global and biome levels, and to estimate the global storage of soil microbial biomass C and N.

Results

The results show that concentrations of C, N and P in soils and soil microbial biomass vary substantially across biomes; the fractions of soil elements C, N and P in soil microbial biomass are 1.2, 2.6 and 8.0%, respectively. The best estimates of C:N:P stoichiometry for soil elements and soil microbial biomass are 287:17:1 and 42:6:1, respectively, at global scale, and they vary in a wide range among biomes. The vertical distribution of soil microbial biomass follows the distribution of roots up to 1 m depth.

Main conclusions

The global storage of soil microbial biomass C and N were estimated to be 16.7 Pg C and 2.6 Pg N in the 0–30 cm soil profiles, and 23.2 Pg C and 3.7 Pg N in the 0–100 cm soil profiles. We did not estimate P in soil microbial biomass due to insufficient data and insignificant correlation between soil total P and climate variables used for spatial extrapolation. The spatial patterns of soil microbial biomass C and N were consistent with those of soil organic C and total N, i.e. high density in northern high latitude, and low density in low latitudes and the Southern Hemisphere.