The cover story on Thompson Woods in the Daily Egyptian’s April 25 issue failed to report the true extent of concern among many biologists at SIUC concerning how Thompson Woods and other campus natural areas should best be managed to reap the maximum benefits for the entire university community. In addition to offering a delightful respite to all at SIUC from manicured lawns and imposing buildings, these areas are used as easily accessible outdoor laboratories by many life science classes.
Input from more biologists into the overall management plans for these areas would contribute substantially to the long-term health of Thompson Woods. In particular, more attention needs to be focused on subcanopy trees and shrubs, understory herbaceous plants and the fauna of the woods, as these contribute heavily to the diversity and stability of forests.
While I was delighted to see that at least one box turtle has survived the recent onslaught of heavy equipment and soil compaction, this alone is not sufficient indication that Thompson Woods supports a healthy fauna. I do agree that there is a severe problem with invasive plants. High densities of invasive plants reduce populations of native plants and lower the abundance of herbivorous insects, with cascading effects up the food chain to native birds, lizards, turtles and mammals.
Wider circulation of existing management plans and solicitation of input from more of the highly qualified biological community at SIUC on how to improve them would foster broader understanding and support for the plans and help preserve these unique multi-use natural areas on our campus in the long term.
adjunct professor of plant biology