Growth and yield of mixed versus pure stands of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L. ) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) analysed along a productivity gradient through Europe
del Río, Miren
Coll Mir, Lluís
Forrester, David I.
van Ouden, J.
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Mixing of complementary tree species may increase stand productivity, mitigate the effects of drought and other risks, and pave the way to forest production systems which may be more resource-use efficient and stable in the face of climate change. However, systematic empirical studies on mixing effects
are still missing for many commercially important and widespread species combinations. Here we studied the growth of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) in mixed versus pure stands on 32 triplets located along a productivity gradient through Europe, reaching from Sweden to Bulgaria and from Spain to the Ukraine. Stand inventory and taking increment cores on the mainly 60-80 year-old trees and 0.02-1.55 ha sized, fully stocked plots provided insight how species mixing modifies the structure, dynamics and productivity compared with neighbouring pure stands. In mixture standing volume (+12 %), stand density (+20 %), basal area growth (+12 %), and stand volume growth (+8 %) were higher than the weighted mean of the neighbouring pure stands. Scots pine and European beech contributed rather equally to the overyielding and overdensity. In mixed stands mean diameter (+20 %) and height (+6 %) of Scots pine was ahead, while both diameter and height growth of European beech were behind (−8 %). The overyielding and overdensity were independent of the site index, the stand growth and yield, and climatic variables despite the wide variation in precipitation (520-1175 mm year−1), mean annual temperature (6-10.5 °C), and the drought index by de Martonne (28-61 mm °C−1) on the sites. Therefore, this species combination is potentially useful for increasing productivity across a wide range of site and climatic conditions. Given the significant overyielding of stand basal area growth but the absence of any relationship with site index and climatic variables, we hypothesize that the overyielding and overdensity results from several different types of interactions (light-, water-, and nutrient-related) that are all important in different circumstances. We discuss the relevance of the results for ecological theory and for the ongoing silvicultural transition from pure to mixed stands and their adaptation to climate change.