Many monoculture forests have been converted to mixed-species forests in Europe over the last decades. The main reasons for this conversion were probably to increase productivity, including timber production, and enhance other ecosystem services, such as conservation of biodiversity and other nature values. This study was done by synthesizing results from studies carried out in Dutch mixed forests compared with monoculture stands and evaluating them in the perspective of the current theory. Then we explored possible mechanisms of higher productivity in mixed stands, in relation to the combination of species, stand age and soil fertility, and discussed possible consequences of forest management. The study covered five two-species mixtures and their corresponding monoculture stands from using long-term permanent forest plots over multiple decades as well as two inventories (around 2003 and 2013) across the entire Netherlands. These forest plot data were used together with empirical models at total stand level, species level and tree level. Overyielding in Douglas-fir–beech and pine–oak mixtures was maintained over time, probably owing to the intensive thinning and was achieved on the poorer soils. However, this overyielding was not always driven by fast-growing light-demanding species. On individual tree level, intra-specific competition was not necessarily stronger than inter-specific competition and this competitive reduction was less seen at lower soil fertility and dependent on species mixtures. Moreover, size-asymmetric competition for light was more associated with tree basal area growth than size-symmetric competition for soil resources. Overall, this study suggests a substantial potential of species mixing for increasing productivity and implies developing forest management strategies to convert monospecific forests to mixed-species forests that consider the complementarity in resource acquisition of tree species.
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