Astounding Differences Between an Ecological Niche and a Habitat

Praseeda Shirodkar Mar 17, 2019
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Though the terms 'ecological niche' and 'habitat' are often taken together, they are completely different from each other.

Quick Example

Organism: Wolf
Habitat: Range of habitats that include tundra, woodlands, grasslands, forests, and deserts
Ecological Niche: It is a predator that feeds on small animals and fruits. The dead remains of its meal serve as food for scavengers. They provide nutrition to the soil.
Ecology is the branch of biology that deals with the relations between organisms and their environment. 'Ecological niche' and 'habitat' are ecological terms. It is necessary to understand the meaning of these terms in order to be able to differentiate between the two.

What is an Ecological Niche?

It refers to the way of living or how a species survives or fits into the particular environment that it inhabits. Each species has a position and a unique role to perform in its environment.
This includes the manner in which it obtains its food, shelter, etc., how it reproduces, how it behaves, as well as its interaction with other species and biotic factors within that environment. It also includes its interaction with the abiotic factors in its environment. In short, it is the function of a species within a particular community.
A fundamental niche persists where there is no competition from other species, thus allowing an organism to make full use of the available resources. However, competition with other species, forces an organism to occupy a niche that is limited and to which they can highly adapt. This is known as its realized niche.
In an ecosystem, herbivorous animals play a role in controlling the population of plants and carnivorous animals help maintain the population of herbivores. The decomposers feed on detritus or decaying matter, and help in keeping the environment clean and providing nutrition to the soil.

What is a Habitat?

It refers to the type of environment that a species or a group of species lives in or inhabits. It includes all the biotic and abiotic factors, as well as the other conditions of the surrounding environment. A habitat is a place that has all the required resources which are essential for the survival of an inhabiting species.
That is, the organisms are able to obtain food, water, shelter, and other requirements, as well as give birth to and raise their young. Furthermore, different species may share or live in a similar habitat. The different types of habitat are grasslands, forests, deserts, wetlands, and the Arctic tundra.

Ecological Niche Vs. Habitat

Ecological Niche

◼ It is the unique way of living of a particular species in its habitat.
◼ It is an ecological part or constituent of a habitat and thus, does not have any further constituents.
◼ It is unique to a single species within a particular habitat.
◼ The niche of a species would depend on each stage of its life cycle.

Habitat

◼ It is the type of environment that a species or a group of species lives in.
◼ A habitat can include many niches.
◼ It can include and support a single species or a group of species. Moreover, different groups of species may share or live in a similar habitat.
◼ The habitat of a species does not change.
On a conclusive note, ecological niche and habitat are mutually related. This mutual relation is very important in the study of biodiversity. This study makes it possible for us to maintain and protect the numbers of different species in the ecosystem.
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