Forest site classification in the Southern Andean Region of Ecuador: a case study of pine plantations to collect a base of soil attributes
Forest site classification adapted to the respective site conditions is one prerequisite for sustainable silviculture. This work aims to initiate the forest site classification for pine plantations in the southern Andean region of Ecuador. Forest productivity, estimated by the dominant height of 20-year-old trees (DH20), was related to data from climate, topography, and soil using 23 plots installed in pine plantations in the province of Loja. Forest site productivity was classified as: low (class C: 13.4 m), middle (class B: 16.6 m), and high (Class A: 22.3 m). Strong determinants to differentiate the forest site classes were: the short to medium term available Ca and K stocks (organic layer + mineral soil standardized to a depth of 60 cm), soil acidity, the C:N ratio, clay and sand content, forest floor thickness, altitude, and slope. The lowest forest productivity (Class C) is mainly associated with the lowest short to medium term available K and Ca stocks. Whereas, in site classes with the highest forest productivity, pines could benefit from a more active microbial community releasing N and P, since the soil pH was about 1 unit less acidic. This is supported by the lowest forest floor thickness and the narrowest C:N ratio.