Soil CO2 efflux is the primary source of CO2 emissions from terrestrial ecosystems to the atmosphere. The rates of this flux vary in time and space producing hot moments (sudden temporal high fluxes) and hot spots (spatially defined high fluxes), but these high reaction rates are rarely studied in conjunction with each other. We studied temporal and spatial variation of soil CO2 efflux in a water-limited Mediterranean ecosystem in Baja California, Mexico. Soil CO2 efflux increased 522% during a hot moment after rewetting of soils following dry summer months. Monthly precipitation was the primary driver of the seasonal trend of soil CO2 efflux (including the hot moment) and through changes in soil volumetric water content (VWC) it influenced the relationship between CO2 efflux and soil temperature. Geostatistical analyses showed that the spatial dependence of soil CO2 efflux changed between two contrasting seasons (dry and wet). During the dry season high soil VWC was associated with high soil CO2 efflux, and during the wet season the emergence of a hot spot of soil CO2 efflux was associated with higher root biomass and leaf area index. These results suggest that sampling designs should accommodate for changes in spatial dependence of measured variables. The spatio-temporal relationships identified in this study are arguably different from temperate ecosystems where the majority of soil CO2 efflux research has been done. This study provides evidence of the complexity of the mechanisms controlling the spatio-temporal variability of soil CO2 efflux in water-limited ecosystems. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.