Ecology establishes a relationship of humans with nature or the environment. Ecology consists of all organisms, whether individual, community, society, forests, ecosystem, biosphere, etc. Two such terms which are related to ecology are niche and habitat. Niche and Habitat are related and are very important for our ecosystem. Niche and Habitat help us to understand the abiotic and biotic components of the environment. Both are very closely related to each other, and there is a thin difference between them.
Niche vs Habitat
The main difference between Niche and Habitat is that Niche is a role or an idea that observes an organism and tells that how that particular organism behaves in an ecosystem. Whereas Habitat is a place where all types of living organisms live and adapt to environmental conditions. Habitat composes of all the species, whereas niche focuses on one particular species.
Niche is a functional role that tells us about the position of species in the environment and how it reacts, adapts and fights for survival for resources and with predators. Niche is a subset of habitat it means it comes under habitat. Niche is also referred to as an ecological niche when it deals with living beings because it interacts with living beings. Both abiotic and biotic factors determine niche. Three major types of Niche: trophic niche, spatial or habitat niche, and multidimensional niche.
Habitat is a natural home of a species that lives and exploits the resources for survival, food, shelter, mating and protection. Physical and Biological characteristics play a crucial role for an organism when living in a habitat. Habitat directly depends on the environmental condition. If there is a disruption in climatic condition due to pollution, volcano, tornado, deforestation, urbanization etc. A habitat is a larger system, and it composes one or more than one niche.
Comparison Table Between Niche and Habitat
|Parameters of Comparison||Niche||Habitat|
|Composed of||A Niche is a single unit that cannot be divided further.||Habitat consists of more than one niche.|
|Species||In a niche, at a time, only one species can reside.||In habitat, many species can live at a time.|
|Size||It is small in size.||It is big in size.|
|Trophic Level||It shows the trophic level of an organism in an ecosystem.||It doesn’t show the trophic level of an organism in an ecosystem.|
|Examples||Niche occupied by Pandas or birds in New Zealand etc.||Lakes, Mountains, Grasslands, Desert etc.|
What is Niche?
The word ‘niche’ is coined by Joseph Grinnell in the year 1971. The term ‘niche’ means nest in which species lives. Often the word ‘ecological niche’ is misused. Niche tells us the behavioural pattern of an organism that reacts to competitors like predators, parasites, etc., in an environment. Niche is an ideology that tells about the requirements and tolerance level of an organism.
Niche is a composition of both biotic and abiotic factors. Biotic includes living organisms, and abiotic includes non-living organisms. Niche tells us about the trophic level, i.e., a flow of energy from one organism to other organisms. As soon as the ecological niche becomes empty, it gets filled up by another organism. Niche is very specific to one species. It means that no two species can exist in it at the same time.
If any particular species create its niche, then it helps in the reduction of competition between other species. For example, if there is a species, let say birds, so birds differ from each other in their eating habits, like some of them eat fruits, some nuts and some other small insects. So we can say that although birds reside in the same habitat, their niche is different because of their eating habits.
Three types of niches can be found in the ecosystem: Spatial, Trophic and Multidimensional. Spatial Niche, also called Habitat niche, deals with the space that is occupied by a species. The trophic niche shows the food chain of an organism and how it is distributed evenly with others. Multidimensional Niche is also known as Hypervolume Niche, is very complex and difficult to understand as it involves a basic niche as well.
What is Habitat?
The word ‘habitat’ comes from the Latin word ‘habitare’, which means to inhabit or hold. The word has been used since the year 1755. It is described as a natural environment of a being where it lives and grows with its community of plants and animals. It is very similar to the term ‘biotope’, which means an area where an organism resides.
The factors which are very important for living beings to live are humidity, temperature, climate, soil and light intensity. There are various types of habitat. Terrestrial habitats include grasslands, forests, wetlands and deserts. Freshwater habitats include rivers, ponds, marshes, streams, lakes, and bogs. Marine habitats include estuaries, bays, brackish water, the intertidal zone, the sea bed, the open sea, reefs and deep/shallow water zones.
Habitat is a part of the ecosystem, and niche comes within the habitat. In habitat at a time, many species lives together and play their specific role in the ecosystem. Because so many organisms live in a habitat, it is very difficult to examine the trophic level or food chain of organisms. In habitat, species live for a longer period, unlike niche. Habitat also influences how the organisms live in the niche. Habitats might change depending upon environmental factors like volcanos, tornados etc. or due to man-made activities such as deforestation, urbanisation etc.
Main Differences Between Niche and Habitat
- A Niche is a single unit that cannot be divided further. It is a subdivision of habitat. Habitat consists of more than one niche. It is a superset that consists of all components in an environment.
- In a niche, at a time, only one species can reside. It studies and observes one species at a time. In habitat, many species can live at a time.
- The niche is small in size. Habitat is big in size, and it is a whole.
- Niche shows the trophic level of an organism in an ecosystem because it is small and is easier to comprehend. Habitat doesn’t show the trophic level of an organism in an ecosystem because it is a part of larger order.
- Examples of Niche includes Niche occupied by Pandas or birds in New Zealand etc. Examples of Habitat includes Lakes, Mountains, Grasslands, Desert etc.
Niche and Habitat both are part of an ecosystem. Both have similarities with each other and are often confused terms. Many definitions exist about niche and habitat given by different ecologists. The basic idea of niche is that it tells us about the interaction between different ecological factors. Habitat is a permanent address of an organism where it resides. Both the terms are closely linked. It is very crucial to demarcate boundaries between the two precisely.