Research papers

Long-term development of experimental mixtures of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.) in northern Britain


The Caledonian pinewoods of northern Scotland are a priority conservation habitat in Europe which are dominated by Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), but varying proportions of a number of broadleaved species such as silver birch (Betula pendula) can occur in these forests. Better understanding of the dynamics of mixed Scots pine-birch stands would be helpful in informing current initiatives to restore and increase the area of the pinewood ecosystem. Some evidence is provided by two experiments established in the 1960s which compared plots of pure Scots pine and pure birch with two treatments where the two species were mixed in 3:1 and 1:1 ratios. Some fifty years later, Scots pine was the more vigorous of the two species in these experiments, being both taller and significantly larger in diameter. The highest basal area was generally found in the pure Scots pine plots and the values in the mixed plots tended to be intermediate between those of the two component species. Examination of the growth in the mixed plots showed a slight, but non-significant, tendency towards overyielding. This appeared to be due to Scots pine growth being better than predicted, while that of birch was slightly less than predicted. These results suggest that in these mixtures, which are composed of two light demanding species, the main mechanism driving long-term performance is competition for light and there is little evidence of any complementary effect. These results suggest that any strategy seeking to increase the long-term representation of broadleaves such as birch in the Caledonian pinewoods will need to create discrete blocks that are large enough to withstand the competitive pressures exerted by the pine.


Mixtures; Pinus sylvestris, Betula pendula, competition

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