Habitat vs Environment
Habitat and environment are two different terms with a specific meaning for each. However, those are amongst commonly mistaken referred terms in biology. Therefore, a proper understanding with a better differentiation about the meaning of the terms habitat and environment would lead not to commit mistakes in the future. However, these terms are closely related to each other, and that is the main cause for the confusion, but this article would be a help to sort out that problem.
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 an energy or nutrient source for the organism or the entire population depending on their requirements. The main limiting factors of habitats for 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.
Since, environment is anything and everything, the reference of the term shall be restricted to the biophysical environment in this article. It is a combination of the physical environment with the biological forms. In simple terms, any environment that has the properties to sustain life could be a biophysical environment. For example, the richness in sunlight, atmosphere, and the presence of a substrate viz. soil or water would enable to sustain life in the particular environment. One of the most salient features of the environment is that it determines the climate and weather, which are extremely valuable for the biological forms. Any serious change to the environment could alter the natural cycles, causing climatic shifts and changes in food and energy abundance. Since everything in the environment is interrelated, those changes are consequential. However, animals and plant have to adapt to the situation accordingly. Importantly, a change in the environment could cause to change the habitats of most of the animal and plant populations. The resourcefulness in any environment determines the availability for life forms to create their habitats and components in the environment limits the abundance and distribution.
What is the difference between Habitat and Environment?
• The habitat is a defined place or area of the environment according to the requirements of a particular life form. Therefore, a habitat is always an environment, but an environment is not always a habitat.
• A habitat always has life in it, whereas the environment does not necessarily have life in it.
• A habitat is always a preference of one species, whereas an environment could be a preference of many species that could eventually become many habitats.
• Usually, the environment governs the properties of a habitat, but not vice versa.