Habitat vs Niche
Habitat and niche very closely related and often confused terms of ecology. Therefore, a better and precise understanding on both terms is essential. The particulars about both, habitat and niche, are easy to understand, but the main problem that encounters those mistakes is that the habitat is the major part of niche. This article briefly reviews the meaning of these terms and performs a comparison as well, and it would be important for a better understanding about the difference between habitat and niche.
Habitat, by definition, is the environmental or ecological area being inhabited by any organism. In other words, habitat is the natural environment in which an animal, a plant, or any other organism occupies. Habitat surrounds a population of one species, and it determines the distribution of a particular species. An organism or a population naturally prefers to live in a particular environment, which is full of resources for them, and that environment becomes their habitat eventually. It could be a water body, a certain area of the water column, bark of a tree, inside the leaf litter of a rain forest, a cave, or the interior of an animal. That means a habitat could be any place with energy or nutrient source for the organism or the entire population depending on their requirements. The main limiting factors of habitats are the abundance of food/energy and threats (e.g. predators, competitors). Therefore, these factors limit the distribution and occupancy of a particular species or population. However, the habitat is the place where an animal or plant simply lives in nature.
The term niche has many definitions according to different ecologists. However, the core idea of a niche is the whole package of ecological relationships that an organism in the ecosystem is responsible. In other words, the ecological niche means the habitat and habits of a particular species in general. Niche includes the habitat of an individual or a whole population. All the natural habits are also an important component of the niche, including food preferences, active time, reproductive behaviours, and many more. In simple terms, everything that happens around an organism in its natural environment is a responsibility of the particular animal or plant (or any organism), and that describes the niche of that organism. Interestingly, each organism has a specific niche in the ecosystem, and if someone fails to do so, there will be a new niche created. The niche of herbivores is the population control of the plants, while carnivores play their role in maintaining the population of herbivorous animals. Detritus feeders and decomposers perform their role in cleaning the environment and in providing nutrition for the soil to be fertile. The niche defines everything in the ecosystem in general.
What is the difference between Habitat and Niche?
• Habitat is a part of the ecosystem, whereas niche is everything about the ecosystem.
• Habitat is a part of niche, but not vice versa.
• Organisms change according to the niche, but they can select the habitat on their accord. In other words, it is the call of an organism to occupy a certain habitat, but they cannot change the niche depending on their requirements.
• A habitat does not include habits, but niche does include all the habits.
• A niche is always species and individual specific, whereas habitat could not be that specific.