Soil seed banks represent a critical but hidden stock for potential future plant diversity on Earth. Here we compiled and analyzed a global dataset consisting of 15,698 records of species diversity and density for soil seed banks in natural plant communities worldwide to quantify their environmental determinants and global patterns. Random forest models showed that absolute latitude was an important predictor for diversity of soil seed banks. Further, climate and soil were the major determinants of seed bank diversity, while net primary productivity and soil characteristics were the main predictors of seed bank density. Moreover, global mapping revealed clear spatial patterns for soil seed banks worldwide; for instance, low densities may render currently species-rich low latitude biomes (such as tropical rain-forests) less resilient to major disturbances. Our assessment provides quantitative evidence of how environmental conditions shape the distribution of soil seed banks, which enables a more accurate prediction of the resilience and vulnerabilities of plant communities and biomes under global changes.

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Published in Nature Communications, v. 12, issue 1, article no. 7023.

© The Author(s) 2021

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (32071524 and 31770514 to X.Y., and 31861143024 to Z.H.). International research travel by J.H.C.C. was partly funded by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW, CEP grant 12CDP007).

Related Content

Data and references from which data were collected supporting the findings of this study are available in the Supplementary Data 1 and 2. Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World (TEOW) are publicly available on the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) website [https://www.worldwildlife.org/]. Climate data reported in this study are publicly available on the WorldClim database [https://www.worldclim.org/]. Soil data are publicly available on the SoilGrids system [https://soilgrids.org/].

The R codes used for analyses are available in the supplementary software, which is available for download as an additional file listed at the end of this record.

41467_2021_27379_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1311 kB)
Supplementary information

41467_2021_27379_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (488 kB)
Peer review file

41467_2021_27379_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (152 kB)
Dataset 1

41467_2021_27379_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx (1029 kB)
Dataset 2

41467_2021_27379_MOESM5_ESM.zip (26 kB)
Supplementary software

41467_2021_27379_MOESM6_ESM.pdf (341 kB)
Reporting summary