Species richness and diversity of many small mammals vary depending on the vegetation type and density. In June 2009, we trapped small mammals in six different types of forest and six different locations in the prairie using Sherman, Russian, and Longworth traps. Grids that had been burned in the past tended to yield a higher total number of animals caught in traps; however, species richness was not as heavily influenced by burning. Unburned red pine forest showed the highest number of species collected. We found that species richness and the overall number of species is greatly influenced by the forest type, vegetation, moisture and land management methods used in these areas.
Over the history of northern Minnesota forests and prairies, fires have played a major role in maintaining and regulating natural ecosystems (Frissell 1973). Fires in the past were started by lightening strikes and would exterminate themselves. This pattern of burning the understory came to dictate the diversity of plants and animals residing in this area (Frissell 1973). By burning away the young growth, white and red pines prevailed and established the dominant vegetative type for this region. Since present fire prevention has halted most of the wildfires that occur, prescribed burns have been implemented to try and replicate historic ecology based on the prevalence of wildfires.
Based on this, areas that have undergone prescribe would be expected to contain species that are adapted to living in and recolonizing burned habitats. These species should be a representative of historic diversity in the region. The same can be said for the prairie region which historically experienced similar events. For this project, we are looking into several different grids on burned and unburned habitats to determine if there is a significant difference in the species diversity.