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  1. Abstract Numerical models are crucial to understand and/or predict past and future soil organic carbon dynamics. For those models aiming at prediction, validation is a critical step to gain confidence in projections. With a comprehensive review of ~250 models, we assess how models are validated depending on their objectives and features, discuss how validation of predictive models can be improved. We find a critical lack of independent validation using observed time series. Conducting such validations should be a priority to improve the model reliability. Approximately 60% of the models we analysed are not designed for predictions, but rather for conceptual understanding of soil processes. These models provide important insights by identifying key processes and alternative formalisms that can be relevant for predictive models. We argue that combining independent validation based on observed time series and improved information flow between predictive and conceptual models will increase reliability in predictions. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Abstract

    The determinants of fire-driven changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) across broad environmental gradients remains unclear, especially in global drylands. Here we combined datasets and field sampling of fire-manipulation experiments to evaluate where and why fire changes SOC and compared our statistical model to simulations from ecosystem models. Drier ecosystems experienced larger relative changes in SOC than humid ecosystems—in some cases exceeding losses from plant biomass pools—primarily explained by high fire-driven declines in tree biomass inputs in dry ecosystems. Many ecosystem models underestimated the SOC changes in drier ecosystems. Upscaling our statistical model predicted that soils in savannah–grassland regions may have gained 0.64 PgC due to net-declines in burned area over the past approximately two decades. Consequently, ongoing declines in fire frequencies have probably created an extensive carbon sink in the soils of global drylands that may have been underestimated by ecosystem models.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  3. Abstract Atmospheric concentrations of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, have strongly increased since 2007. Measurements of stable carbon isotopes of methane can constrain emissions if the isotopic compositions are known; however, isotopic compositions of methane emissions from wetlands are poorly constrained despite their importance. Here, we use a process-based biogeochemistry model to calculate the stable carbon isotopic composition of global wetland methane emissions. We estimate a mean global signature of −61.3 ± 0.7‰ and find that tropical wetland emissions are enriched by ~11‰ relative to boreal wetlands. Our model shows improved resolution of regional, latitudinal and global variations in isotopic composition of wetland emissions. Atmospheric simulation scenarios with the improved wetland isotopic composition suggest that increases in atmospheric methane since 2007 are attributable to rising microbial emissions. Our findings substantially reduce uncertainty in the stable carbon isotopic composition of methane emissions from wetlands and improve understanding of the global methane budget. 
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  4. Abstract Soils store more carbon than other terrestrial ecosystems 1,2 . How soil organic carbon (SOC) forms and persists remains uncertain 1,3 , which makes it challenging to understand how it will respond to climatic change 3,4 . It has been suggested that soil microorganisms play an important role in SOC formation, preservation and loss 5–7 . Although microorganisms affect the accumulation and loss of soil organic matter through many pathways 4,6,8–11 , microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE) is an integrative metric that can capture the balance of these processes 12,13 . Although CUE has the potential to act as a predictor of variation in SOC storage, the role of CUE in SOC persistence remains unresolved 7,14,15 . Here we examine the relationship between CUE and the preservation of SOC, and interactions with climate, vegetation and edaphic properties, using a combination of global-scale datasets, a microbial-process explicit model, data assimilation, deep learning and meta-analysis. We find that CUE is at least four times as important as other evaluated factors, such as carbon input, decomposition or vertical transport, in determining SOC storage and its spatial variation across the globe. In addition, CUE shows a positive correlation with SOC content. Our findings point to microbial CUE as a major determinant of global SOC storage. Understanding the microbial processes underlying CUE and their environmental dependence may help the prediction of SOC feedback to a changing climate. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 29, 2024