The Shannon Wiener Index

Claude Shannon had expertise in mathematics and in electrical engineering. He had undertaken a lot of research on theories of information communication. Following this research, he summarized his ideas in a technical journal. It was in this particular paper that there was a reference to his mathematical theory of communication. The main objective of this theory is to try and measure the amount of 'order' (or 'disorder') within a particular system. The concepts of order and disorder have long been a topic of discussion in natural history. In the 1950s and 1960s, such ideas as links between 'information' and 'diversity' were being debated by ecologists.

A commonly used index in ecology and ecological monitoring is Shannon's index. This has been derived from the Shannon function H and is expressed as follows:

The Shannon function H has played a central role in information theory as a measure of information, choice, and uncertainty. This in turn led to its useful role as a measure of evenness or equitability. This is expressed as follows:

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