Global depth distribution of belowground net primary productivity and its drivers

Liujun Xiao, Guocheng Wang, Jinfeng Chang, Yaoyao Chen, Xiaowei Guo, Xiali Mao, Mingming Wang, Shuai Zhang, Zhou Shi, Yiqi Luo, Lei Cheng, Kailiang Yu, Fei Mo, Zhongkui Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Aim: This study aimed to infer the allocation of belowground net primary productivity (BNPP) to sequential soil depths down to 2 m across the globe at a 1 km resolution and assess underlying environmental drivers. Location: Global. Time Period: Contemporary (1932–2017). Major Taxa Studied: Terrestrial plants. Methods: Global datasets including field net primary production (NPP, i.e., the difference between plant assimilated and respired carbon) from 725 soil profiles, root biomass and its depth distribution from 559 soil profiles were compiled and used to infer the depth distribution of BNPP across the globe and digitally map depth-resolved BNPP globally at 1 km resolution. Drivers of the depth distribution of BNPP were evaluated using machine learning-based models. Results: Global average BNPP allocated to the 0–20 cm soil layer is estimated to be 1.1 Mg C ha−1 yr−1, accounting for ~60% of total BNPP. Across the globe, the depth distribution of BNPP varies largely, and more BNPP is allocated to deeper layers in hotter and drier regions. Edaphic, climatic and topographic properties (in order of importance) explain >80% of such variability; and the direction and magnitude of the influence of individual properties are soil depth- and biome-dependent. Main Conclusions: The findings suggest that mean annual temperature and precipitation are the two most important factors regulating BNPP across the globe. Soil properties such as soil actual evaporation and total nitrogen also play a vital role in regulating the depth distribution of BNPP. The maps of BNPP provide global benchmarks of depth-resolved BNPP for the prediction of whole-profile soil carbon dynamics across biomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1435-1451
Number of pages17
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • carbon inputs
  • global mapping
  • net primary productivity
  • root biomass
  • root profile
  • vertical distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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