Influence of soil conditions on pines oaks and beeches

Soils influence the establishment and growth of trees but are in turn modified by activities of the trees themselves, notably by the leaf litter they produce. Beeches are lime-tolerant, growing well on chalk of the South Downs of southern England for example. They flourish on light to medium soils, but are tolerant of a wide range of substrates provided they have reasonable drainage. Most oaks are favoured by a reasonably rich soil, one that is not too sandy or dry; their leaf litter, like that of beeches, gradually improves the soil beneath them. The influence of soil conditions on the biodiversity and distribution of oaks in southeastern USA is described in Section 6.5.1.

Pines, on the other hand, are well adapted to acidic and nutrient-poor soils. They tend to acidify better soils (especially under the influence of acid rain - Section 11.4.2), the resulting nutrient depletion giving them an advantage over many angiosperms until soils become too acid even for them. Mycorrhizas play a major role in facilitating the passage of mineral nutrients, including phosphorus, from the soil to pine roots. It is thus important to inoculate the soil with appropriate fungi when establishing exotic pine plantations. Provided the climatic and soil requirements of a particular species are well understood, pines are frequently of great value in planting programmes, often on short rotation periods, a notable example being the introduction of Monterey radiata pine P. radiata, originally a narrow range endemic in North America, to Australia, New Zealand, Chile and many other parts of the world.

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