In the natural forest communities of Central Europe, beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) predominates in the tree layer over a wide range of soil conditions. An exception with respect to the dominance of beech are skeleton-rich soils such as screes where up to 10 broad-leaved trees co-exist. In such a Tilia-Fagus-Fraxinus-Acer-Ulmus forest and an adjacent mono-specific beech forest we compared (1) soil nutrient pools and net nitrogen mineralization rates, (2) leaf nutrient levels, and (3) leaf litter production and stem increment rates in order to evaluate the relationship between soil conditions and tree species composition. In the mixed forest only a small quantity of fine earth was present (35 g 1-1) which was distributed in patches between basalt stones; whereas a significantly higher (P < 0.05) soil quantity (182 g 1-1) was found in the beech forest. In the soil patches of the mixed forest C and N concentrations and also concentrations of exchangeable nutrients (K, Ca, Mg) were significantly higher than in the beech forest. Net N mineralization rates on soil dry weight basis in the mixed forest exceeded those in the beech forest by a factor of 2.6. Due to differences in fine earth and stone contents, the volume related soil K pool and the N mineralization rate were lower in the mixed forest (52 kg N ha-1 yr-1, 0-10 cm depth) than in the beech forest (105 kg N ha -1 yr-1). The leaf N and K concentrations of the beech trees did not differ significantly between the stands, which suggests that plant nutrition was not impaired. In the mixed forest leaf litter fall (11%) and the increment rate of stem basal area (52%) were lower than in the beech forest. Thus, compared with the adjacent beech forest, the mixed forest stand was characterized by a low volume of patchy distributed nutrient-rich soil, a lower volume related K pool and N mineralization rate, and low rates of stem increment. Together with other factors such as water availability these patterns may contribute to an explanation of the diverse tree species composition on Central European screes.
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