Ecology

The Chicago region has an incredibly diverse ecology that has developed as a mixture of cliff, forested, lakeshore, savanna, shrubland, prairie and wetland communities. Each ecosystem in the Chicago region has developed based on the unique hydrology, soil, sunlight levels, fire regimes, and habitat size. Busse Woods contains remnant Oak/Hickory woodlands and savannas. Original settlers utilized the preserve as a woodlot and some of the trees located within Busse Woods predate European settlers and many of the plants and animals that existed within the ecosystem are still present within Busse Woods.

The hydrology of the area has been altered significantly with the introduction of a dam, however many of the forested areas have not been altered. It is important to note that many of the woodland areas are flat and if the water levels of the lake were to rise above their current levels it could have significant negative impacts on the ecology of Busse Woods.

The fire regimes that shaped the Chicago region had a significant role in creating the incredible biodiversity that the region possesses. Plants adapted to fire that occurred as frequently as once a year by developing deep root systems, thick bark, and a reliance on the increased sunlight levels that will occur after fire. Busse Woods exists in the location it does because Salt Creek provided a fire break and allowed for the Oak and Hickory trees to develop. The fire regime in Busse Woods has been significantly altered after the settlement by humans. Prescribed burns are an important part of the restoration activities being performed within Busse Woods.

Many of the natural areas within the region suffer from fragmentation as it will disrupt the natural processes that have been occurring for millennia. The dense populations surrounding Busse Woods have most likely had impacts whether known or unknown by us, but the large size of Busse Woods provides ample space for a diverse and healthy ecosystem.

Visit the Chicago Wilderness website for a detailed analysis of the ecology in the Chicago region and their “Biodiversity Recovery Plan”.

Why should we care about invasives plant species? Invasives can have some negative ecological, economical, and human health impacts:

  • Invasives decline the abundance or loss of native species.
  • Invasives change ecosystem structure and function.
  • Invasives pose human health risks (e.g. chronic wasting disease)
  • Invasives have a negative economic impact due to damage and controlling costs.