Roller Chopping Effectively Reduces Shrub Cover and Density in Pine Flatwoods


  • Emma V. Willcox,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, Bronson, FL 32621, U.S.A.
    2. At the time of the research, the senior author was a Research Assistant, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, U.S.A.
      E. V. Willcox, email
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  • William M. Giuliano

    1. Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, U.S.A.
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E. V. Willcox, email


Changes to fire regimes have resulted in excessive shrub growth and declines in the species rich herbaceous ground layer of pyric savanna and grassland systems worldwide, including the pine flatwoods of the Southern Coastal Plain of the United States. Prescribed burning and roller chopping during growing (April–October) and dormant (November–March) seasons are management practices promoted to reduce shrub invasion and increase herbaceous plant growth in flatwoods. However, relatively little is known about the seasonal effects these activities have on shrubs and herbaceous vegetation. We assessed the effects of prescribed burning and roller chopping on herbaceous and shrub characteristics in pine flatwoods and explored how grazing may mediate these treatments. We used a paired design, with comparison made between sampling locations randomly located within treated (e.g. burned) and adjacent untreated areas. Growing season burning was more effective at reducing shrub cover and height than dormant season burning. However, shrub re-growth occurred the second year post-burn. Roller chopping and roller chopping/burning combinations led to decreases in shrub cover and height for 2 years post-treatment. Decreases in shrub density were seen on sites subject to growing season roller chopping and grazing. Decreases in herbaceous vegetation were observed following all treatments, possibly the result of grazing. If reductions in shrub density are required, growing season roller chopping in combination with grazing may be the only effective treatment. However, initial deferment from grazing following burning and roller chopping treatments may be necessary to permit re-establishment and growth of forbs and graminoids.