Soil organic carbon (SOC) accounts for two-thirds of terrestrial carbon. Yet, the role of soil physicochemical properties in regulating SOC stocks is unclear, inhibiting reliable SOC predictions under land use and climatic changes. Using legacy observations from 141 584 soil profiles worldwide, we disentangle the effects of biotic, climatic and edaphic factors (a total of 31 variables) on the global spatial distribution of SOC stocks in four sequential soil layers down to 2 m. The results indicate that the 31 variables can explain 60 %-70 % of the global variance of SOC in the four layers, to which climatic variables and edaphic properties each contribute â¼35 % except in the top 20 cm soil. In the top 0-20 cm soil, climate contributes much more than soil properties (43 % vs. 31 %), while climate and soil properties show the similar importance in the 20-50, 50-100 and 100-200 cm soil layers. However, the most important individual controls are consistently soil-related and include soil texture, hydraulic properties (e.g. field capacity) and pH. Overall, soil properties and climate are the two dominant controls. Apparent carbon inputs represented by net primary production, biome type and agricultural cultivation are secondary, and their relative contributions were â¼10 % in all soil depths. This dominant effect of individual soil properties challenges the current climate-driven framework of SOC dynamics and needs to be considered to reliably project SOC changes for effective carbon management and climate change mitigation.