Soil properties as key predictors of global grassland production: Have we overlooked micronutrients?

Dajana Radujković*, Erik Verbruggen, Eric W. Seabloom, Michael Bahn, Lori A. Biederman, Elizabeth T. Borer, Elizabeth H. Boughton, Jane A. Catford, Matteo Campioli, Ian Donohue, Anne Ebeling, Anu Eskelinen, Philip A. Fay, Amandine Hansart, Johannes M.H. Knops, Andrew S. MacDougall, Timothy Ohlert, Harry Olde Venterink, Xavier Raynaud, Anita C. RischChristiane Roscher, Martin Schütz, Maria Lucia Silveira, Carly J. Stevens, Kevin Van Sundert, Risto Virtanen, Glenda M. Wardle, Peter D. Wragg, Sara Vicca

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Fertilisation experiments have demonstrated that nutrient availability is a key determinant of biomass production and carbon sequestration in grasslands. However, the influence of nutrients in explaining spatial variation in grassland biomass production has rarely been assessed. Using a global dataset comprising 72 sites on six continents, we investigated which of 16 soil factors that shape nutrient availability associate most strongly with variation in grassland aboveground biomass. Climate and N deposition were also considered. Based on theory-driven structural equation modelling, we found that soil micronutrients (particularly Zn and Fe) were important predictors of biomass and, together with soil physicochemical properties and C:N, they explained more unique variation (32%) than climate and N deposition (24%). However, the association between micronutrients and biomass was absent in grasslands limited by NP. These results highlight soil properties as key predictors of global grassland biomass production and point to serial co-limitation by NP and micronutrients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2713-2725
Number of pages13
Issue number12
Early online date6 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • biomass production
  • climate
  • grasslands
  • iron
  • micronutrients
  • N deposition
  • Nutrient Network (NutNet)
  • soil properties
  • zinc

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