Species and structural diversity affect growth of oak, but not pine, in uneven-aged mature forests

Margot Vanhellemont*, Rienk Jan Bijlsma, Luc De Keersmaeker, Kris Vandekerkhove, Kris Verheyen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of mixing tree species on tree growth and stand production have been abundantly studied, mostly looking at tree species diversity effects while controlling for stand density and structure. Regarding the shift towards managing forests as complex adaptive systems, we also need insight into the effects of structural diversity. Strict forest reserves, left for spontaneous development, offer unique opportunities for studying the effects of diversity in tree species and stand structure. We used data from repeated inventories in ten forest reserves in the Netherlands and northern Belgium to study the growth of pine and oak. We investigated whether the diversity of a tree's local neighbourhood (i.e., species and structural diversity) is important in explaining its basal area growth. For the subcanopy oak trees, we found a negative effect of the tree species richness of the local neighbours, which - in the studied forests - was closely related to the share of shade-casting tree species in the neighbourhood. The growth of the taller oak trees was positively affected by the height diversity of the neighbour trees. Pine tree growth showed no relation with neighbourhood diversity. Tree growth decreased with neighbourhood density for both species (although no significant relationship was found for the small pines). We found no overall diversity-growth relationship in the studied uneven-aged mature forests; the relationship depended on tree species identity and the aspect of diversity considered (species vs. structural diversity).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-50
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • Biodiversity
  • Ecosystem functioning
  • Pinus sylvestris
  • Productivity
  • Quercus petraea
  • Quercus robur
  • Temperate forest


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