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 stand 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 stand 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 that monospecific forests.