The productivity and functioning of mixed-species forests often differs from that of monocultures. However, the magnitude and direction of these differences are difficult to predict because species interactions can be modified by many potentially interacting climatic and edaphic conditions, stand structure and previous management. Process-based forest growth models could potentially be used to disentangle the effects of these factors and thereby improve our understanding of mixed forest functioning while facilitating their design and silvicultural management. However, to date, the predicted mixing effects of forest growth models have not been compared with measured mixing effects. In this study, 26 sites across Europe, each containing a mixture and monocultures of Fagus sylvatica and Pinus sylvestris, were used to calculate mixing effects on growth and yield and compare them with the mixing effects predicted by the forest growth model 3-PGmix. The climate and edaphic conditions, stand structures and ages varied greatly between sites. The model performed well when predicting the stem mass and total mass (and mixing effects on these components), with model efficiency that was usually >0.7. The model efficiency was lower for growth or smaller components such as foliage mass and root mass. The model was also used to predict how mixing effects would change along gradients in precipitation, temperature, potential available soil water, age, thinning intensity and soil fertility. The predicted patterns were consistent with measurements of mixing effects from published studies. The 3-PG model is a widely used management tool for monospecific stands and this study shows that 3-PGmix can be used to examine the dynamics of mixed-species stands and determine how they may need to be managed.
- Forest growth model