Species diversity, the number of species present in a community, is relatively easy to
quantify but can be very difficult to explain. Mostly this is because through various
sampling methods you can determine how many individuals of which species are present in
an area. But to determine why those species are there in those proportions you need to
know many details of the species and individual needs as well as how the factors interrelate.
Three major factors thought to influence patterns of diversity are the physical structure of
the habitat (vegetation, objects, soil), the climate and climatic stability of the habitat, and
the productivity of the habitat as a whole and of individual resources (MacArthur, 1972).
Our experiment examined the small mammal communities of various sites in both
forest and prairie habitats. We wanted to determine which habitat type has greater species
diversity and whether there are species present in both habitats.