Abstract Aim To evaluate the joint and independent effects of spatial location, landscape composition and landscape structure on the distribution patterns of bird and carabid beetle assemblages in a mosaic landscape dominated by pine plantation forests. Location A continuous 3000-ha landscape mosaic with native maritime pine Pinus pinaster plantations of different ages, deciduous woodlands and open habitats, located in the Landes de Gascogne forest of south-western France. Methods We sampled breeding birds by 20-min point counts and carabid beetles by pitfall trapping using a systematic grid sampling of 200 points every 400 m over the whole landscape. Explanatory variables were composed of three data sets derived from GIS habitat mapping: (1) spatial variables (polynomial terms of geographical coordinates of samples), (2) landscape composition as the percentage cover of the six main habitats, and (3) landscape structure metrics including indices of fragmentation and spatial heterogeneity. We used canonical correspondence analysis with variance partitioning to evaluate the joint and independent effects of the three sets of variables on the ordination of species assemblages. Moran's I correlograms and Mantel tests were used to assess for spatial structure in species distribution and relationships with separate landscape attributes. Results Landscape composition was the main factor explaining the distribution patterns of birds and carabids at the mesoscale of 400 × 400 m. Independent effects of spatial variables and landscape structure were still significant for bird assemblages once landscape composition was controlled for, but not for carabid assemblages. Spatial distributions of birds and carabids were primarily influenced by the amount of heathlands, young pine plantations, herbaceous firebreaks and deciduous woodlands. Deciduous woodland species had positive responses to edge density, while open habitat species were positively associated with mean patch area. Main conclusions Forest birds were favoured by an increase in deciduous woodland cover and landscape heterogeneity, but there was no evidence for a similar effect on carabid beetles. Fragmentation of open habitats negatively affected both early-successional birds and carabids, specialist species being restricted to large heathlands and young plantations. Several birds of conservation concern were associated with mosaics of woodlands and grasslands, especially meadows and firebreaks. Conserving biodiversity in mosaic plantation landscapes could be achieved by the maintenance of a significant amount of early-successional habitats and deciduous woodland patches within a conifer plantation matrix.