Question What are the main pathways of long-term stand development in forest ecosystems on oligotrophic and acidic sandy soils?Location: Nine forest reserves at different locations in The Netherlands; all ageing Pinus sylvestris forests that are no longer managed and where massive regeneration of broad-leaved species is often reported.Methods: Agglomerative cluster analysis was used to define structural classes from forest reserve data. Sequences of structural classes, representing different trajectories of stand development, were constructed with the aid of a process based gap model.Results: Four main pathways of stand development could be distinguished. Three pathways are linked to gap dynamics, and lead towards dominance of Betula, Quercus or Fagus. They differ in light availability for regeneration and/or seed tree availability. The fourth pathway comprises of development patterns after major disturbances.Conclusions: The new methodological approach, combining the empirical strength of forest reserve data with the predictive ability of a process based model, made it possible to detail and quantify insights into structure and dynamics of forests on poor sandy soils. Some factors not included in the study can substantially influence pathways, especially those where Quercus and Fagus potentially play an important role.Abbreviations: Be = Betula pendula and Betula pubescens; Fa = Fagus sylvatica; MPp = Model prediction for a simulation plot p; OVp,t = output vector at time t of MPp; Pi = Pinus sylvestris; Qu = Quercus robur and/or Q. petraea; SC = Structural class; SCO = Structural class object.Nomenclature: De Langhe et al. (1988).