Can mixed pine forests conserve understory richness by improving the establishment of understory species typical of native oak forests?

Abstract
Key message A positive effect of mixed pine forests (Pinus sylvestris L. and Pinus pinaster Ait.) on the understory richness and tree regeneration was observed with respect to monospecific stands. Understory species typical of the native Pyrenean oak forests in the Iberian Peninsula contribute to maintaining high understory richness in such mixed pine forests.

Context The influence of stands characteristics on the understory in mixtures that combine coniferous tree species of the same genus deserves more study since they are frequent in Spain.

Aims To assess the effect of mixed versus monospecific stands of Pinus sylvestris L. and Pinus pinaster Ait. on the main tree species regeneration and understory species composition.

Methods Tree regeneration and understory species composition were inventoried in eighteen forest plots (6 triplets) in North-Central Spain. Each triplet consisted of two plots dominated either by Scots pine or Maritime pine and one mixed plot that contained both species.

Results The basal area (%) of both Pinus species was the only characteristic of the stands that significantly influenced the understory composition and tree regeneration. Characteristic species of humid and temperate zones, including P. sylvestris regeneration, dominated in Scots pine stands, and typical species of well-drained Mediterranean areas, including P. pinaster regeneration, dominated in Maritime pine stands. In mixed stands, the highest regeneration of the native Pyrenean oak with respect to monospecific stands was accompanied by understory species typical of native oak forests that share the same regeneration niche.

Conclusion Mixed pine forests allow the development of understory species better than monospecific forests.

Keywords
Mixed pine forests, Pinus sylvestris, Pinus pinaster, Pyrenean oak regeneration, Niche amplitude, Understory richness

Publication
López-Marcos, D., Turrión, M., Bravo, F. et al. Can mixed pine forests conserve understory richness by improving the establishment of understory species typical of native oak forests?. Annals of Forest Science 77, 15 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13595-020-0919-7

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This article is part of the topical collection on Mediterranean Pines.

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