Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Silvicultural management and altitude prevail on soil properties and fungal community in shaping understorey plant communities in a Mediterranean pine forest

Centenaro, Giada; de Miguel, Sergio; Amouzgar, Laleh; Pinuela, Yasmine; Son, Deokjoo; Antonio Bonet, Jose; Martinez de Aragon, Juan; Dashevskaya, Svetlana; Castano, Carles; Alday, Josu G.


Understorey vegetation plays a key role in Mediterranean forest ecosystem functioning. However, we still lack a thorough understanding of the patterns and drivers of understorey composition and diversity. As a result, understoreys are often ignored during assessments of forest functioning under climate change. Here we studied the effect of silvicultural man-agement, topography, soil fungal community composition and soil physical and chemical properties on understorey com-munity composition and diversity. The plant cover and number of individuals of understorey perennial plants, shrubs and non-dominant trees was recorded on 24 plots (paired: control-thinned) in a Mediterranean pine-dominated mountainous area in Northeast Spain. The study area represented a broad thinning intensity gradient (from 0 to 70 a/o in removed stand basal area) along a 400-m altitudinal range (from 609 m to 1013 m). Our results showed that thinning intensity and topography explained the greatest proportion of the total variance in the understorey species composition, i.e., 18 a/o and 16 a/o, respectively. Interestingly, the effects of the silvicultural treatments were significant only when considering the altitudinal effect, so that, the main impacts of thinning on the understorey community composition occurred at low altitudes (between 609 m and 870 m). Moreover, we found a significant decrease in both richness and abundance of understorey species in both the control and thinned plots with increasing altitude, with thinned plots being signifi-cantly richer in species compared to the control plots. The difference in the understorey community sensitivity to forest thinning along the altitudinal gradient suggests changes in factors that limit plant growth. Low elevation plots were restrained by light availability while high altitudes plots limited by winter freezing temperature.


Understorey vegetation; Pinus pinaster; Altitude; Forest thinning; Shrub diversity

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2023, volume: 858, article number: 159860
Publisher: ELSEVIER

Authors' information

Centenaro, Giada
University of Lleida
de-Miguel, Sergio
University of Lleida
Amouzgar, Laleh
University of Lleida
Piñuela, Yasmine
University of Lleida
Son, Deokjoo
University of Lleida
Bonet, José Antonio
University of Lleida
Martínez de Aragón, Juan
Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia (CTFC)
Dashevskaya, Svetlana
University of Lleida
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology
Alday, Josu G.
University of Lleida

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)