Overyielding in mixed pine forests with belowground complementarity: impacts on understory

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López-Marcos, D., Turrión, MB., Bravo, F., Martínez-Ruiz C (2021) - Overyielding in mixed pine forests with belowground complementarity: impacts on understory - European Journal of Forest Research

The impact of biodiversity loss on the functioning of forest ecosystems has become a central issue in ecology. Most reports
of the positive effects of tree mixture on the biodiversity–productivity relationship focus on mixtures that combine tree
species with contrasting traits. Nevertheless, little is known about how coniferous mixtures of the same genus affect forest
productivity, what mechanisms are involved, and how the understory is affected. Here, we assessed the effect of mixed versus
monospecific stands of Pinus sylvestris L. and P. pinaster Ait. on productivity, its impact on the understory, and its relationship
with soil water and fertility, based on research with six triplets (6 triplets × 3 forest stands × 1 plot = 18 plots) in North-
Central Spain. Each triplet consisted of two plots dominated either by P. sylvestris or P. pinaster and of one mixed plot that
contained both species. Productivity, at the stand and neighborhood levels, and the understory richness, and soil water and
fertility at the stand level were analyzed. A positive effect of pine mixture on productivity was observed at the smaller spatial
scale, and it had no negative effect on the understory richness. The greater space-use efficiency (higher tree density and basal
area) of both Pinus species in the admixtures was related to soil water and fertility niche complementarity. The fundamental
role of scale in determining the relationship between species richness and ecosystem functioning in forests is highlighted.

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