Drylands contain 25% of the world’s soil organic carbon (SOC), which is controlled by many factors, both abiotic and biotic. Thus, understanding how these factors control SOC concentration can help to design more sustainable land-use practices in drylands aiming to foster and preserve SOC storage, something particularly important to fight ongoing global warming. We use two independent, large-scale databases with contrasting geographic coverage (236 sites in global drylands and 185 sites in Patagonia, Argentina) to evaluate the relative importance of abiotic (precipitation, temperature and soil texture) and biotic (primary productivity) factors as drivers of SOC concentration in drylands at global and regional scales. We found that biotic and abiotic factors had similar effects on SOC concentration across regional and global scales: Maximum temperature and sand content had negative effects, while precipitation and plant productivity exerted positive effects. Our findings provide empirical evidence that increases in temperature and reductions in rainfall, as forecasted by climatic models in many drylands worldwide, promote declines in SOC both directly and indirectly via the reduction in plant productivity. This has important implications for the conservation of drylands under climate change; land management should seek to enhance plant productivity as a tool to offset the negative impact of climate change on SOC storage and on associated ecosystem services.
- aboveground net primary productivity
- climate change
- ecosystem services
- soil texture