More than a third of Romania’s surface has low-productive soils, at the same time exposed to risks of climatic phenomena and generating high economic loss. Afforestation with pine has been the most common solution for the recovery of sheet erosion. Many of the pines grown on such land have run down. This paper presents the results of the first dendroecological investigation of degraded lands in Romania, 80 years after the first ecological reconstruction. In this way, the effects of reconstruction were assessed, supporting the adoption of future solutions for the improvement and efficiency of recovered ecosystems. Reconstructed radial growth was set against rainfall, air temperature, and management history. A total of 330 black pine and Scots pine trees (Pinus sylvestris
L. and Pinus nigra
Arn.) of different ages and social positions from 11 stands of different densities were cored for retrospective tree-ring analysis. Scots pine has made better use of these sites, with a better growth rate than black pine especially in plantations with lower survival and on dominant trees. The dynamics of radial growth distinguish the two pine species, with Scots pine showing an accentuated juvenile growth spurt and bigger growth range. The growth decline is predominantly a maturation effect that begins when the tree is around 40 years old and seems to be irreversible. After this age, weak or moderated removal is not enough to revive growth. The contribution of climate (air temperature and rainfall) to the last radial increments in decline is 3–57% and is higher than in the previous decades. On moderately degraded land by farming and grazing, the mixture of Scots pine and black pine, rather than monocultures, proved to be a sustainable solution. Dendrochronological surveying of restored ecosystems allows development of management strategies, which becomes critically important in the circumstances of climate warming.
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