Global projections of the soil microbiome in the Anthropocene

Carlos A. Guerra*, Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo, Eliana Duarte, Orlando Marigliano, Christiane Görgen, Fernando T. Maestre, Nico Eisenhauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Aim: Soil microbes are essential for maintenance of life-supporting ecosystem services, but projections of how these microbes will be affected by global change scenarios are lacking. Therefore, our aim was to provide projections of future soil microbial distribution using several scenarios of global change. Location: Global. Time period: 1950–2090. Major taxa studied: Bacteria and fungi. Methods: We used a global database of soil microbial communities across six continents to estimate past and future trends of the soil microbiome. To do so, we used structural equation models to include the direct and indirect effects of changes in climate and land use in our predictions, using current climate (temperature and precipitation) and land-use projections between 1950 and 2090. Results: Local bacterial richness will increase in all scenarios of change in climate and land use considered, although this increase will be followed by a generalized community homogenization process affecting > 85% of terrestrial ecosystems. Changes in the relative abundance of functional genes associated with the increases in bacterial richness are also expected. Based on an ecological cluster analysis, our results suggest that phylotypes such as Geodermatophilus spp. (typical desert bacteria), Mycobacterium sp. (which are known to include important human pathogens), Streptomyces mirabilis (major producers of antibiotic resistance genes) or potential fungal soil-borne plant pathogens belonging to Ascomycota fungi (Venturia spp., Devriesia spp.) will become more abundant in their communities. Main conclusions: Our results provide evidence that climate change has a stronger influence on soil microbial communities than change in land use (often including deforestation and agricultural expansion), although most of the effects of climate are indirect, through other environmental variables (e.g., changes in soil pH). The same was found for microbial functions such as the prevalence of phosphate transport genes. We provide reliable predictions about the changes in the global distribution of microbial communities, showing an increase in alpha diversity and a homogenization of soil microbial communities in the Anthropocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)987-999
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Global Ecology and Biogeography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • biodiversity projections
  • ecosystem functions
  • future of nature
  • soil bacteria
  • soil governance
  • soil macroecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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