Environmental Management

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 819–828 | Cite as

Effects of Management on Understory Diversity in the Forest Ecosystems of Northern Spain

  • José A. Atauri
  • Carlos L. de Pablo
  • Pilar Martín de Agar
  • María F. Schmitz
  • Francisco D. Pineda


Pine plantations are an alternative to marginal agriculture in many countries, and are often presented as an option that improves biodiversity. However, these plantations can have adverse environmental effects if improperly managed. To evaluate the effect of forest management practices on biodiversity, the diversity, species richness, dominance and frequency of understory woody plant species in different forests of the Basque Country (northern Spain) were compared. Plantations of exotic conifers (Pinus radiata [D.] Don) of different ages were compared with deciduous forests of Quercus robur L. and Fagus sylvatica L. The effects of different types and intensities of management were taken into account. The differences observed were mainly conditioned by the intensity of forestry management, although the response varied according to forest type and age. In unmanaged pine plantations, the diversity and species richness of the understory increased rapidly after planting (while dominance decreased), remained stable in the intermediate age range, and reached a maximum in plantations more than 25 years of age. Management practices resulted in decreased understory diversity and species richness, as well as greater dominance. This was more pronounced in younger than in older stands. Moderate management, however, favored a greater diversity of the understory in deciduous forests. The species composition of the plantations and deciduous forests were different, the latter having a wider range of characteristic species. Knowledge of how forestry practices influence biodiversity (in terms of diversity, richness, dominance, and species composition) may allow predictions to be made about the diversity achievable with different management systems.


Biological diversity Forestry management Pine plantations Basque country Pinus radiata 



This paper was co-financed by the Basque Regional Government (Project PGV9045) and the CICYT (PB88-110). We thank Dr. P. Cifuentes and Dr. F. Ugarte for their advice in the sampling design, and C. Prieto, A. Goenaga, M. Jover, and I. Latasa for their collaboration in the sampling campaigns and data processing.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • José A. Atauri
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carlos L. de Pablo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pilar Martín de Agar
    • 1
    • 2
  • María F. Schmitz
    • 1
    • 2
  • Francisco D. Pineda
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento Interuniversitario de EcologíaFacultad de CienciasUniversidad de AlcaláMadridSpain
  2. 2.Departamento Interuniversitario de EcologíaFacultad de Ciencias Biológicasc/ José Antonio Novais s/nUniversidad ComplutenseMadridSpain

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