The positive effect of plant diversity on soil carbon depends on climate| Nature Communications volume 14, Article number: 6624 (2023) | 2023 | Peer Reviewed | Original research
Little is currently known about how climate modulates the relationship between plant diversity and soil organic carbon and the mechanisms involved. Yet, this knowledge is of crucial importance in times of climate change and biodiversity loss. Here, we show that plant diversity is positively correlated with soil carbon content and soil carbon-to-nitrogen ratio across 84 grasslands on six continents that span wide climate gradients. The relationships between plant diversity and soil carbon as well as plant diversity and soil organic matter quality (carbon-to-nitrogen ratio) are particularly strong in warm and arid climates. While plant biomass is positively correlated with soil carbon, plant biomass is not significantly correlated with plant diversity. Our results indicate that plant diversity influences soil carbon storage not via the quantity of organic matter (plant biomass) inputs to soil, but through the quality of organic matter. The study implies that ecosystem management that restores plant diversity likely enhances soil carbon sequestration, particularly in warm and arid climates.