Habitat, food, and small mammal community structure in Namaqualand
The effect of habitat differences and food availability on small mammal (rodent and elephant shrew) species richness, diversity, density and biomass was investigated in Namaqualand, South Africa. Species richness in the three habitats sampled, namely Upland Succulent Karoo, Dry Riverine Shrub and North-western Mountain Renosterveld was low, with only 2-4 species per habitat. Rodents trapped were predominantly Gerbillurus paeba and Aethomys namaquensis, with fewer Mus minutoides and Petromyscus sp. The only non-rodent was the elephant shrew Elephantulus edwardii. Ten habitat features, the percentage of total plant cover, tree cover, shrub cover, grass cover, plant litter, total basal cover, sand, gravel or rock cover, and the dominant plant height were recorded at 30 randomly chosen points on five sampling grids in each habitat. Small mammal density and biomass was significantly correlated with food availability (green foliage cover, seeds, and relative density and biomass of insects). Species richness and diversity of small mammals were significantly correlated with shrub cover. Numbers and biomass of specific species correlated significantly with different habitat features in each case.