Let the Sun Shine In

Photo of sunshine coming through the pines and highlighting the forest floor.

Oak trees support more than 100 different kinds of animals. However oak trees are slowly disappearing from southern Illinois forests, say a group of scientists who study the region’s forests. They blame its loss on the lack of sunlight in our forests.

Without more sunlight, Southern Illinois forests may be the first in central North America to completely convert from a forest dominated by oaks to one dominated by shade-loving species, such as maple.

A darker forest means fewer songbirds, waterfowl and other wildlife. That’s because sunlight gives life to wildflowers, grasses and shrubs. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators feast on these flowers, while the forest floor provides cover for birds and other wildlife to raise their young.

Shawnee National Forest’s hope is by making our forests sunnier can we save the diversity of life that depends on them. Using fire and selective removal of trees are two management techniques that can open a forest, and both are being used at the national forest.

Graphic showing a butterfly next to a bee on a flower.