The Forest Preserve District of Will County has been preserving and restoring habitats and protecting the diversity of species in this county for more than 90 years. Forest preserves in our neighboring counties and throughout Illinois all work to achieve this goal. Let’s look at just how much diversity exists in Illinois.
An estimated 1.9 million plant and animal species have been identified on our amazing planet. Some scientists believe there may be up to 7 million more species that have not been identified yet! In Illinois, about 54,000 species have been identified. That means about 3 percent of all the species in the world live in Illinois. Three percent may seem like a small number, but when you think about the diversity in the oceans and rainforests, it is quite a lot for a Midwestern state.
Why do we have such rich diversity? Look at the continental Unites States. It is divided into 10 biomes, which are large units that we use to divide habitats. Major biomes on land include deserts, grasslands, tropical rainforests, temperate deciduous forests, northern coniferous forests and tundra. (Tundra means “north of the timberline.”)
As you can see in the above map, four biomes are present in the state of Illinois. The biome north of Illinois is so close, we have a little overlap with those species. Therefore, species from 50 percent of our country’s biomes intersect in Illinois.
Illinois is divided into 15 natural divisions. Just like biomes, divisions are separated based on the climate, landscape, soil, bedrock and the plant and animal species that live there. Will County is a part of two of these divisions.
The Northeastern Morainal is the most diverse division in the state. During the Ice Age 10,000 years ago, this area was covered by glaciers! The Grand Prairie is the largest division in our state. Most of this division has been lost, but the Forest Preserve District of Will County has turned farmland back into this beautiful prairie habitat.
So next time you take a walk in a forest preserve, think about where you are and the rich diversity present all around you. Then be grateful that we have forest preserves working hard to keep it that way!
You can help too! The Will County Forest Preserve offers a variety of volunteer opportunities.
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