Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Impacts of clear-cutting and burning of sand pine Pinus clausa scrub on breeding and wintering bird communities in Ocala National Forest, Florida, USA

Published source details

Greenberg C.H., Harris L.D. & Neary D.G. (1995) A comparison of bird communities in burned and salvage-logged, clearcut, and forested Florida sand pine scrub. Wilson Bulletin, 107, 40-54


Sand pine Pinus clausa scrub is a shrub-dominated ecosystem occurring on dry, infertile sand in Florida and southern Alabama, south-eastern USA. Historically, infrequent high-intensity wildfires created a mosaic of different habitat ages, but (for safety and economic reasons) maintenance of early successional habitat is nowadays often achieved by clear-cutting. This study compared the bird communities of areas of sand pine scrub that had been burnt by wildfire or clear-cut in the Ocala National Forest, central Florida.


In 1991, nine habitat patches (c. 8–24 ha) that had been subjected to three different disturbance treatments five to seven years earlier were selected for study. Three plots had been clear cut, roller chopped (which causes nearly 100% soil surface disturbance) and broadcast seeded; three had been clear cut and ‘bracke’ seeded (which creates small seed beds disturbing about 30% of the soil surface); and three had been burnt by high-intensity wildfire and then salvage logged and left to regenerate naturally.

During the breeding season (19 May–29 June) of 1991 and 1992, and the winter (3 January–13 February) of 1992 and 1993, the bird communities of each plot were surveyed (using transects) four times each season.


During the breeding season, no significant differences were found in average bird density and species richness in roller-chopped (581 birds/km²; 6.3 species), bracke-seeded (372 birds/km²; 5.3 species) and burnt (389 birds/ km²; 4.7 species) plots. Nevertheless, shrub-nesting species (most notably eastern towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus) were more abundant (and species-rich) in roller-chopped plots than in bracke-seeded or burnt plots. Densities of the threatened Florida scrub-jay Aphelocoma coerulescens were broadly similar in the three plot types.

During the winter, no significant differences were detected in average bird density and species richness in roller-chopped (594 birds/km²; 10.3 species), bracke-seeded (894 birds/km²; 11.0 species) and burnt (531 birds/ km²; 12.0 species) plots. Florida scrub-jays were recorded only in bracke-seeded plots during winter surveys.


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