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Keywords:

  • Beech;
  • oak;
  • resilience;
  • spruce;
  • stress gradient hypothesis;
  • stress resistance

Abstract

Facilitation, reduced competition or increased competition can arise in mixed stands and become essential to the performance of these stands when compared to pure stands. Facilitation and over-yielding are widely held to prevail on poor sites, whereas neutral interactions or competition, leading to under-yielding of mixed versus pure stands, can occur on fertile sites. While previous studies have focused on the spatial variation of mixing effects, we examine the temporal variation of facilitation and competition and its effect on growth. The study is based on tree ring measurement on cores from increment borings from 559 trees of Norway spruce (Picea abies [L.] Karst.), European beech (Fagus sylvatica [L.]) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl.) in southern Germany, half of which were in pure stands and half in adjacent mixed stands. Mean basal area growth indices were calculated from tree ring measurements for pure and mixed stands for every species and site. The temporal variation, with positive correlations between species-specific growth indices during periods of low growth and neutral or negative correlations during periods of high growth, is more distinct in mixed than in neighbouring pure stands. We provide evidence that years with low growth trigger over-yielding of trees in mixed as opposed to pure stands, while years with high growth lead to under-yielding. We discuss the relevance of the results in terms of advancing our understanding and modelling of mixed stands, extension of the stress gradient hypothesis, and the performance of mixed versus pure stands in the face of climate change.