Global patterns of potential future plant diversity hidden in soil seed banks

Xuejun Yang, Carol C. Baskin, Jerry M. Baskin, Robin J. Pakeman, Zhenying Huang, Ruiru Gao, Johannes H.C. Cornelissen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7023
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Prof. Ken Thompson from the University of Sheffield, UK, for critical comments, which improved the manuscript. We thank W. Zhang, Y. Xu, C. Di, W. Ji, M. Dong, W. Ren, Y. Yang, T. Shao, and M. Wu from the School of Life Sciences, Shanxi Normal University for the assistance in collecting part of the data. 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).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Physics and Astronomy (all)


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