Difference Between Habitat and Niche In Ecology

What a Habitat?

In ecology, a habitat is where a species of organism lives or thrives. It is the natural environment of that species. It is where it will derive its food, shelter, and mate for reproduction. It is where the species will attempt to be as adaptive as possible.

Habitats may be an open geographical area or a specific site (e.g. a rotten log, a hollow tree, or inside a tree bark). They may be terrestrial or aquatic. Examples of terrestrial habitats are forest, grassland, steppe, and desert. Aquatic habitats include freshwater, marine water, and brackish water. Geographically, habitats may be classified into the following types: polar, temperate, subtropical, or tropical.

What is a Niche?

In ecology, the term “niche” describes the role an organism plays in a community. A species’ niche encompasses both the physical and environmental conditions it requires (like temperature or terrain) and the interactions it has with other species (like predation or competition).

In other words, the term niche describes how an organism or population responds to the distribution of resources and competitors and how it in turn alters those same factors. The term particularly describes the relational position of an organism or a population in a particular ecosystem.

A niche may be influenced by biotic and abiotic factors of an ecosystem. However, the niche of a species in a particular ecosystem will help set the features of its environment as these features will be crucial to its survival.

Habitat vs Niche: Key Differences

Elements of
DefinitionA habitat is a natural environment where a particular organism lives and utilizes the resources of that place for their survival, food, shelter, protection, and mating.Niche is the functional role and position of a species in its environment that describes how the species responds to the distribution of resources and competitors or predators.
Composed ofA habitat might have one or more niches.A niche is a unit that doesn’t have further components.
InvolvesA habitat deals with the effect of temperature, climate, and similar factors on the survival of an organism.A niche deals with the flow of energy from one species to another and its interaction with the abiotic factors.
SpeciesA habitat might support more than one species at a time.A niche is specific to a species and only supports a single species of organisms.
NatureHabitat is a physical space occupied by species.Niche is the activities and interactions a species has with other species and the environments.
RepresentsHabitat represents the address of an organism.Niche represents the profession or occupation of an organism.
SpecificityHabitat is not specific to species.Niche is specific to a particular species.
NatureHabitat is a superset that contains other components.Niche is a subset of a habitat.
SizeHabitat is larger in size.A niche is smaller than a habitat.
Trophic levelHabitat doesn’t indicate the trophic level of a species in an ecosystem.Niche defines the trophic level of a species in an ecosystem.
ChangesHabitat of an organism remains the same for a longer period of time.Living beings might change their niche within a shorter time like seasons.
InfluenceHabitat of a species might influence its niche.Niche is a result of the habitat and rarely affects the habitats of the species.
TypesThe five major types of habitat include; forests, grasslands, deserts, mountains, and polar regions, and aquatic habitats.The three major types of niche; spatial or habitat niche, trophic niche, and multidimensional niche.
ExamplesGrasslands, lakes, mountains, deserts, etc., are some examples of habitat.Birds in New Zealand, niches occupied by pandas are some examples of niches.

Habitat vs. Niche

In ecology,habitat and nicherefer to two separate terms. A habitat is a place where an organism or a biological population normally (or is adapted to) live(s), reside(s), or occur(s). It may be a forest, a river, a mountain, or a dessert. While habitat is ageographical placea niche is the relationship of a species with the components of an ecosystem.

The niche of an organism depicts how it lives and is able to survive in its environment. Thus, a habitat may consist of many niches and could support various species at a given time. Niche is all about a single species as a part of the habitat with all its biological activities as influenced by biotic and abiotic factors. The niche of organisms could, therefore, be defined by living factors (e.g. predators, competitors, parasites, commensals, etc.) and non-living factors.

In ecological terms, anicheis the manner or role in which organisms fit into their respective ecosystems. Over time, ecologists have come to an agreement that a niche cannot have two species playing the same role within it. This is often due to competition for resources.

Sometimes this very scenario leads to extinction, but not always. Over time, two competing species could eventually evolve slight differences and therefore new niches.

Ecologists look at factors such as food, temperature, prey size, moisture, and so on in their analyses. Using two or three of these factors, ecologists can figure out how a species will respond to their environment. This refers to the fundamental niche of a species. Understanding both habitat and niche aids scientists in their quest to find ways to help conserve species.