The story of the pine tree is a long and an interesting one. Widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, Pinus is a diverse genus of trees. It is an extremely resilient species, and is known to do well in low nutrient soils and battle extremes in cold or heat. For that reason, it is able to compete with local or indigenous species, wiping them out in many cases.
It is widely accepted that non-native species are invasive. With the pine, this turns into a bit of a conundrum. Many would say that it’s been around long enough to now be considered native, or naturalised. Yet, it’s invasive qualities are hard to deny.
You will rarely ever find a flowering plant under a pine tree.
Well, a tree is a tree is a tree. So, a pine does help hold the forest soil together, to an extent. It does contribute organic matter to the soil by way of cones and needles. However, since it also contributes acids and tannins to the soil, it changes soil chemistry. So it doesn’t hold the soil together as well as the rich, humus-laden soil of a mixed-species forest floor would.
Most needle-bearing trees tend to make soil more acidic. The pine, too, contributes acids, quercetin, and tannins to the soil – making it unsuitable for the growth of other plants.
The pine forest is best considered a ‘transient’ of tree populations.
When managed properly, pine forests can evolve into more complex and stable ecosystems. Untended, there is a higher risk of evolution into chaotic structures – landscape change, the spread of insects and pathogens, and the risk of fires and watercourse obstruction.