The key difference between habitat and ecosystem is that the habitat is the natural environment or area in which an organism lives while the ecosystem is a functional unit in which plants, animals, microorganisms and physical environments interact with each other.
Habitat and ecosystem are two different components of ecology. Habitat is the natural home of an organism. An ecosystem describes the interrelationships between living organisms and non-living environment. Habitat lies within the ecosystem. So an ecosystem consists of many habitats. In other words, habitat is the home inside the village of the ecosystem. These two entities have different characteristics, and those are particularly important to understand.
What is a Habitat?
A habitat, by definition, is the environmental or the ecological area in which an organism inhabits. In other words, habitat is the natural environment that occupies by an animal, a plant, or any other organism. Habitat surrounds a population of one species, and it determines the distribution of that particular species. An organism or a population naturally prefer to live in a particular environment when it is full of resources for them. Then that particular environment becomes their habitat eventually.
Likewise, habitat could be a water body, a certain area of the water column, the bark of a tree, inside the leaf litter of a rainforest, a cave, or the interior of an animal. That means, a habitat could be any place that has an 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 such as predators, competitors, etc. Therefore, these factors limit the distribution and occupancy of a particular species or a population. However, the habitat is the place where an animal or a plant simply lives in nature. Depending on the number of species in an ecosystem, the number of habitats changes accordingly.
What is an Ecosystem?
Ecosystem is the whole functional unit of biological and physical entities of certain, defined area or a volume. It describes the interrelationships between living organisms as well as relationships between living organisms and non-living physical environment. Also, the size of an ecosystem could vary from a bark of a dead tree up to a massive rain forest or an ocean. Furthermore, a small fish tank is also can be an ecosystem, but if it is an artificial ecosystem. Hence, an ecosystem could be either natural or manmade. However, the natural ecosystems last for a longer period of time may be for forever, since there are self-sustaining mechanisms executing within the ecosystems.
Ecosystem comprises mainly with communities, which are combinations of populations. Usually, a typical ecosystem contains producers, primary consumers (herbivores), secondary and tertiary consumers (mostly omnivores and carnivores), scavengers, and decomposers. If all these components are available in a particular place, it enables the successful energy cycling, hence, that particular place converts into an ecosystem. Organisms will fit into the available niches by finding proper habitats and living in a preferred environment. If that particular place could sustain life without being diminished, the place can eventually become an ecosystem. A collection of ecosystems make a biome, and all the biomes collectively form the biosphere of the Earth.
What are the Similarities Between Habitat and Ecosystem?
- Habitat and Ecosystem are two ecological terms.
- Both include living organisms.
- Organisms live in both systems.
What is the Difference Between Habitat and Ecosystem?
Habitat and ecosystem are two terms you encounter when studying the subject ecology. The difference between habitat and ecosystem is that the habitat is the natural home of an animal, a plant or any other living organism while an ecosystem is the interaction and interrelationships between living organisms and physical environment. Also, one ecosystem includes many habitats. Hence, an ecosystem refers to comparatively a larger area than a habitat. We can consider this also as a difference between habitat and ecosystem. Furthermore, habitat not always refers to a geographical area. It can be a rock, a stem, body of a host organism, etc.
The below infographic describes the difference between habitat and ecosystem in more detail.
Summary – Habitat vs Ecosystem
Habitat is a natural living environment of a species of organism. Organisms find shelter, foods, protection, mates to reproduce, etc. within their habitat. If all these resources are available in a particular environment, it becomes their preferred habitat eventually. Habitat does not always refer to a geographic area. It could be a rock, body of a host organism, or a stem interior, etc. as well. A good habitat fulfils all the requirements of an organism that needs to thrive that environment. Meantime, ecosystem is another concept that we find in ecology. Within an ecosystem, there are many habitats. An ecosystem is a complex and dynamic functional unit which describes all the interrelationships between living organisms and the physical environment. Hence, this summarizes the difference between habitat and ecosystem.