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Ibex in an alpine habitat In
ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Ecology considers organisms In biology ...
, the term habitat summarises the array of resources, physical and biotic factors that are present in an area, such as to support the survival and reproduction of a particular
species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanis ...

species
. A species habitat can be seen as the physical manifestation of its
ecological niche In ecology, a niche is the match of a species to a specific environmental condition. Three variants of ecological niche are described by It describes how an organism or population responds to the distribution of resources and competitors (for ...

ecological niche
. Thus "habitat" is a species-specific term, fundamentally different from concepts such as
environment Environment most often refers to: __NOTOC__ * Natural environment, all living and non-living things occurring naturally * Biophysical environment, the physical and biological factors along with their chemical interactions that affect an organism or ...
or
vegetation Vegetation is an assemblage of plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic eukaryotes of the Kingdom (biology), kingdom Plantae. Historically, the plant kingdom encompassed all living things that were not animals, and included algae and f ...

vegetation
assemblages, for which the term "habitat-type" is more appropriate. The physical factors may include (for example):
soil File:Stagnogley.JPG, Surface-water-Gley soil, gley developed in glacial till, Northern Ireland. Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life. Earth's body of soil, called the pedosphere ...

soil
,
moisture {{unreferenced, date=March 2008 150px, Dew on a spider web Moisture is the presence of a liquid, especially water, often in trace amounts. Small amounts of water may be found, for example, in the air (humidity Humidity is the concentration of ...
, range of
temperature Temperature is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy, present in all matter, which is the source of the occurrence of heat, a flow of energy, when a body is in contact with another that is ...

temperature
, and
light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation within the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be visual perception, perceived by the human eye. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 ...

light
intensity.
Biotic Biotics describe living or once living components of a community; for example organisms, such as animals and plants. Biotic may refer to: *Life, the condition of living organisms *Biology, the study of life *Biotic material, which is derived from l ...
factors will include the availability of
food Food is any substance consumed to provide Nutrient, nutritional support for an organism. Food is usually of plant, animal or Fungus, fungal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, protein (nutrient), proteins, vit ...

food
and the presence or absence of
predators Predation is a biological interaction where one organism, the predator, kills and eats another organism, its prey. It is one of a family of common List of feeding behaviours, feeding behaviours that includes parasitism and micropredation (which ...

predators
. Every organism has certain habitat needs for the conditions in which it will thrive, but some are tolerant of wide variations while others are very specific in their requirements. A species habitat is not necessarily a geographical area, it can be the interior of a stem, a rotten log, a rock or a clump of
moss Mosses are small, Non-vascular plant, non-vascular flowerless plants in the taxonomic phylum, division Bryophyta (, ). Bryophyta is now the formal name for mosses alone, whereas "bryophyte" refers to the informal group of Marchantiophyta, liverw ...

moss
; a
parasitic organism
parasitic organism
has as its habitat the body of its
host A host is a person responsible for guests at an event or for providing hospitality during it. Host may also refer to: Places *Host, Pennsylvania, a village in Berks County People *Jim Host (born 1937), American businessman *Michel Host (bo ...
, part of the host's body (such as the digestive tract), or a single cell within the host's body.For example: Geographic habitat types include
polar Polar may refer to: Geography Polar may refer to: * Geographical pole, either of two fixed points on the surface of a rotating body or planet, at 90 degrees from the equator, based on the axis around which a body rotates *Polar climate, the clim ...
,
temperate In geography, the temperate climates of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. About 29% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continent A continent is one ...
,
subtropical The subtropical zones or subtropics are geographical and climate zones located to the north and south of the Torrid Zone ''Torrid Zone'' is a 1940 adventure film Adventure films are a genre of film whose plots feature elements of travel. ...

subtropical
and
tropical The tropics are the region of Earth surrounding the Equator. They are delimited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere at N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere at S; these latitudes correspond to ...

tropical
regions. The terrestrial
vegetation type Vegetation classification is the process of classifying and mapping the vegetation Vegetation is an assemblage of plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic eukaryotes of the Kingdom (biology), kingdom Plantae. Historically, the plant ki ...
may be
forest A forest is an area of land dominated by trees. Hundreds of definitions of forest are used throughout the world, incorporating factors such as tree density, tree height, land use, legal standing and ecological function. The Food and Agricult ...

forest
,
steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may in ...

steppe
,
grassland Grasslands are areas where the vegetation Vegetation is an assemblage of plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic eukaryotes of the Kingdom (biology), kingdom Plantae. Historically, the plant kingdom encompassed all living things t ...

grassland
, semi-arid or
desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali">Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab ...
.
Fresh-water Fresh water (or freshwater) is any naturally occurring water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is ...
habitats include
marsh A marsh is a wetland that is dominated by Herbaceous plant, herbaceous rather than woody plant species.Keddy, P.A. 2010. Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation (2nd edition). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 497 p Marshes can o ...

marsh
es,
stream A stream is a body of water with surface water flowing within the stream bed, bed and Bank (geography), banks of a Channel (geography), channel. The flow of a stream is controlled by three inputs – surface water, subsurface water and ground ...

stream
s,
river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water ...

river
s,
lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a Depression (geology), basin, surrounded by land, and set apart from any river or other outlet that serves to feed or drain the lake. Lakes lie on land and are not part of the World Ocean, oc ...

lake
s, and
pond A pond is an area filled with water, either natural or Artificiality, artificial, that is smaller than a lake. Ponds are small bodies of freshwater with shallow and still water, marsh, and aquatic plants.Clegg, J. (1986). Observer's Book of P ...

pond
s; marine habitats include salt marshes, the coast, the intertidal zone,
estuaries An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water Brackish water, also sometimes termed brack water, is water occurring in a natural environment having more salinity File:IAPSO Standard Seawater.jpg, upInternational Associatio ...

estuaries
,
reef A reef is a ridge or shoal A tidal sandbar connecting the islands of Waya and Wayasewa of the Yasawa Islands, Fiji ">Fiji.html" ;"title="Yasawa Islands, Fiji">Yasawa Islands, Fiji In oceanography, geomorphology, and earth sciences, a s ...

reef
s, bays, the open sea, the sea bed, deep water and submarine vents. Habitats may change over time. Causes of change may include a violent event (such as the eruption of a
volcano A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object A planet is an astronomical body orbit In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an physical body, object, such as the trajectory of a planet ar ...

volcano
, an
earthquake An earthquake (also known as a quake, tremor or temblor) is the shaking of the surface of the Earth resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth's lithosphere that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes can range in size from those that ...
, a
tsunami A tsunami ( ; from ja, 津波, lit=harbour wave, ) is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater exp ...

tsunami
, a
wildfire A wildfire, bushfire, wildland fire or rural fire is an unplanned, unwanted, uncontrolled fire BBQ. Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction P ...

wildfire
or a change in oceanic currents); or change may occur more gradually over millennia with alterations in the
climate Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years. More rigorously, it is the mean and variability of meteorological variables over a time spanning from months to millions of years. Some of the meteorologi ...
, as
ice sheet In glaciology, an ice sheet, also known as a continental glacier, is a mass of glacier, glacial ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than . The only current ice sheets are in Antarctic ice sheet, Antarctica and Greenland ice sheet, G ...

ice sheet
s and
glacier A glacier (; ) is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight. A glacier forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its Ablation#Glaciology, ablation over many years, often Century, centuries. Glaciers slowl ...

glacier
s advance and retreat, and as different weather patterns bring changes of
precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences which includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics, with a major focus on weather forecasting. The study of meteorology dates back millennia, though significant p ...

precipitation
and
solar radiation Solar irradiance is the power per unit area received from the Sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation as measured in the wavelength In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowle ...
. Other changes come as a direct result of human activities, such as
deforestation deforestation in 1750-2004 (net loss) showing anthropogenic modification of remaining forest. File:MODIS (2020-08-01).jpg, 300px, Dry seasons, exacerbated by climate change, and the use of slash-and-burn methods for clearing tropical forest ...
, the
plowing A plough or plow ( US; both ) is a farm tool for loosening or turning the soil before sowing Sowing is the process of planting. An area or object that has had seeds planted in it will be described as a sowed area. Plants which are usual ...

plowing
of ancient grasslands, the diversion and damming of rivers, the draining of marshland and the dredging of the seabed. The introduction of alien species can have a devastating effect on native wildlife - through increased
predation Predation is a biological interaction where one organism, the predator, kills and eats another organism, its prey. It is one of a family of common feeding behaviours that includes parasitism and micropredation (which usually do not kill the ...

predation
, through competition for resources or through the introduction of pests and diseases to which the indigenous species have no immunity.


Definition and etymology

The word "habitat" has been in use since about 1755 and derives from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the ...

Latin
''habitāre'', to inhabit, from ''habēre'', to have or to hold. Habitat can be defined as the natural environment of an
organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells (cell theory). Organisms are classified by taxonomy (biology), taxonomy into groups such as Multice ...

organism
, the type of place in which it is natural for it to live and grow. It is similar in meaning to a
biotope A biotope is an area of uniform environmental conditions providing a living place for a specific assemblage of plants and animals. ''Biotope'' is almost synonymous with the term ''habitat In ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, ...
; an area of uniform environmental conditions associated with a particular community of plants and animals.


Environmental factors

The chief environmental factors affecting the distribution of living organisms are temperature, humidity, climate, soil and light intensity, and the presence or absence of all the requirements that the organism needs to sustain it. Generally speaking, animal communities are reliant on specific types of plant communities. Some plants and animals have habitat requirements which are met in a wide range of locations. The small white butterfly ''
Pieris rapae ''Pieris rapae'' is a small- to medium-sized butterfly species of the whites-and-yellows family (biology), family Pieridae. It is known in Europe as the small white, in North America as the cabbage white or cabbage butterfly, on several continent ...

Pieris rapae
'' for example is found on all the continents of the world apart from Antarctica. Its larvae feed on a wide range of ''
Brassica ''Brassica'' () is a genus of plants in the cabbage and mustard family ( Brassicaceae). The members of the genus are informally known as cruciferous vegetables, cabbages, or mustard plants. Crops from this genus are sometimes called ''cole cro ...
s'' and various other plant species, and it thrives in any open location with diverse plant associations. The large blue butterfly ''
Phengaris arion The large blue (''Phengaris arion'') is a species of butterfly in the family Lycaenidae. The species was first defined in 1758 and first recorded in Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom, a sovereign state in Europe comprising th ...
'' is much more specific in its requirements; it is found only in chalk grassland areas, its larvae feed on ''
Thymus The thymus is a specialized primary lymphoid organ of the immune system The immune system is a network of biological processes that protects an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''or ...

Thymus
'' species and because of complex lifecycle requirements it inhabits only areas in which ''
Myrmica ''Myrmica'' is a genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer to a ...
'' ants live. Disturbance is important in the creation of biodiverse habitats. In the absence of disturbance, a climax vegetation cover develops that prevents the establishment of other species.
Wildflower File:Death valley flowers 1.jpg, Wildflowers in Death Valley National Park A wildflower (or wild flower) is a flower that grows in the wild, meaning it was not intentionally seeded or planted. The term implies that the plant probably is neith ...

Wildflower
meadows are sometimes created by conservationists but most of the flowering plants used are either annuals or biennials and disappear after a few years in the absence of patches of bare ground on which their seedlings can grow. Lightning strikes and toppled trees in tropical forests allow species richness to be maintained as pioneering species move in to fill the gaps created. Similarly coastal habitats can become dominated by kelp until the seabed is disturbed by a storm and the algae swept away, or shifting sediment exposes new areas for colonisation. Another cause of disturbance is when an area may be overwhelmed by an invasive introduced species which is not kept under control by natural enemies in its new habitat.


Types

Terrestrial habitat-types include forests, grasslands, wetlands and deserts. Within these broad
biome A biome is a collection of plants Plants are mainly multicellular organisms, predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical en ...
s are more specific habitats with varying climate types, temperature regimes, soils, altitudes and vegetation types. Many of these habitats grade into each other and each one has its own typical communities of plants and animals. A habitat-type may suit a particular species well, but its presence or absence at any particular location depends to some extent on chance, on its dispersal abilities and its efficiency as a colonizer. Freshwater habitats include rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, marshes and bogs. Although some organisms are found across most of these habitats, the majority have more specific requirements. The water velocity, its temperature and oxygen saturation are important factors, but in river systems, there are fast and slow sections, pools,
bayou In usage in the Southern United States The southern United States, also known as the American South, the southern states, or simply the South, is a geographic and cultural List of regions of the United States#Official regions of the United St ...

bayou
s and backwaters which provide a range of habitats. Similarly,
aquatic plant Aquatic plants are plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic eukaryotes of the Kingdom (biology), kingdom Plantae. Historically, the plant kingdom encompassed all living things that were not animals, and included algae and fungi; howeve ...
s can be floating, semi-submerged, submerged or grow in permanently or temporarily saturated soils besides bodies of water. Marginal plants provide important habitat for both invertebrates and vertebrates, and submerged plants provide oxygenation of the water, absorb nutrients and play a part in the reduction of pollution.
Marine habitat Marine habitats are habitat In ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environ ...
s include brackish water, estuaries, bays, the open sea, the intertidal zone, the sea bed, reefs and deep / shallow water zones. Further variations include rock pools, sand banks,
mudflat , intertidal and subtidal zones. The most apparent character of the area is the development of tidal channels, affecting mainly the intertidal zone. In this case, the tidal flat is protected seaward by a shoal, beach barrier, but in many cases (low- ...
s,
brackish Brackish water, also sometimes termed brack water, is water occurring in a natural environment having more salinity File:IAPSO Standard Seawater.jpg, upInternational Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO) standard seawater. ...
lagoons, sandy and pebbly beaches, and
seagrass Seagrasses are the only flowering plant The flowering plants, also known as Angiospermae (), or Magnoliophyta (), are the most diverse group of Embryophyte, land plants, with 64 Order(biology), orders, 416 Family (biology), families, approxim ...

seagrass
beds, all supporting their own flora and fauna. The
benthic zone The benthic zone is the ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water such as an ocean, lake, or stream, including the sediment surface and some sub-surface layers. Organisms living in this zone are called benthos and include micro ...
or seabed provides a home for both static organisms, anchored to the
substrate Substrate may refer to: Physical layers *Substrate (biology), the natural environment in which an organism lives, or the surface or medium on which an organism grows or is attached **Substrate (locomotion), the surface over which an organism loco ...
, and for a large range of organisms crawling on or burrowing into the surface. Some creatures float among the waves on the surface of the water, or raft on floating debris, others swim at a range of depths, including organisms in the
demersal zone The demersal zone is the part of the sea or ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of the Earth.
close to the seabed, and myriads of organisms drift with the currents and form the
plankton Plankton are the diverse collection of organisms found in Hydrosphere, water (or atmosphere, air) that are unable to propel themselves against a current (or wind). The individual organisms constituting plankton are called plankters. In the ocea ...

plankton
. A
desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali">Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab ...
is not the kind of habitat that favours the presence of amphibians, with their requirement for water to keep their skins moist and for the development of their young. Nevertheless, some frogs live in deserts, creating moist habitats underground and hibernating while conditions are adverse. Couch's spadefoot toad (''Scaphiopus couchii'') emerges from its burrow when a downpour occurs and lays its eggs in the transient pools that form; the tadpoles develop with great rapidity, sometimes in as little as nine days, undergo
metamorphosis Metamorphosis is a biological process by which an animal physically develops after birth Birth is the act or process of bearing or bringing forth offspring, also referred to in technical contexts as parturition. In mammals, the process is i ...
, and feed voraciously before digging a burrow of their own. Other organisms cope with the drying up of their aqueous habitat in other ways.
Vernal pool Vernal pools, also called vernal ponds or ephemeral pools, are seasonal pools of water that provide habitat for distinctive plants and animals. They are considered to be a distinctive type of wetland usually devoid of fish, and thus allow the safe ...
s are ephemeral ponds that form in the rainy season and dry up afterwards. They have their specially-adapted characteristic flora, mainly consisting of annuals, the seeds of which survive the drought, but also some uniquely adapted perennials. Animals adapted to these extreme habitats also exist; fairy shrimps can lay "winter eggs" which are resistant to
desiccation in sludge Moenave Formation at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm, southwestern Utah. A dinosaur footprint is at center. Desiccation (from Latin de- "thoroughly" + siccare "to dry") is the state of extreme dryness, or the ...
, sometimes being blown about with the dust, ending up in new depressions in the ground. These can survive in a dormant state for as long as fifteen years. Some
killifish '', from East Africa A killifish is any of various oviparous Oviparous animals are animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive method of most fish Fish are Aquati ...

killifish
behave in a similar way; their eggs hatch and the juvenile fish grow with great rapidity when the conditions are right, but the whole population of fish may end up as eggs in
diapause In animal dormancy, diapause is the delay in development in response to regularly and recurring periods of adverse environmental conditions.Tauber, M.J., Tauber, C.A., Masaki, S. (1986) ''Seasonal Adaptations of Insects''. Oxford University Press I ...
in the dried up mud that was once a pond. Many animals and plants have taken up residence in urban environments. They tend to be adaptable generalists and use the town's features to make their homes.
Rat Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodent Rodents (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area ar ...

Rat
s and
mice A mouse, plural mice, is a small rodent Rodents (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome ...

mice
have followed man around the globe,
pigeon Columbidae () is a bird Family (biology), family consisting of pigeons and doves. It is the only family in the Order (biology), order Columbiformes. These are stout-bodied birds with short necks, and short slender bills that in some species fe ...

pigeon
s, , sparrows,
swallow The swallows, martins, and saw-wings, or Hirundinidae, are a family of passerine bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the Ovi ...

swallow
s and
house martin ''Delichon'' is a small genus of passerine birds that belongs to the swallow family and contains three species named as house martins. These are chunky, bull-headed and short-tailed birds, blackish-blue above with a contrasting white rump, and w ...
s use the buildings for nesting,
bat Bats are mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in Female#Mammalian femal ...

bat
s use roof space for roosting,
fox Foxes are small to medium-sized, omnivorous An omnivore () is an animal that has the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Obtaining energy and nutrients from plant and animal matter, omnivores digest carbohydrates, p ...

fox
es visit the garbage bins and
squirrel Squirrels are members of the family (biology), family Sciuridae, a family that includes small or medium-size rodents. The squirrel family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including groundhogs), flying squirrels, a ...

squirrel
s,
coyote The coyote (''Canis latrans'') is a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the lar ...

coyote
s,
raccoon The raccoon ( or , ''Procyon lotor''), sometimes called the common raccoon to distinguish it from other species, is a medium-sized mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting t ...

raccoon
s and
skunk Skunks are North and South American mammals Mammals (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around ...

skunk
s roam the streets. About 2,000 coyotes are thought to live in and around
Chicago (''City in a Garden''); I Will , image_map = , map_caption = Interactive maps of Chicago , coordinates = , coordinates_footnotes = , subdivision_type = Country , subd ...

Chicago
. A survey of dwelling houses in northern European cities in the twentieth century found about 175 species of invertebrate inside them, including 53 species of beetle, 21 flies, 13 butterflies and moths, 13 mites, 9 lice, 7 bees, 5 wasps, 5 cockroaches, 5 spiders, 4 ants and a number of other groups. In warmer climates, termites are serious pests in the urban habitat; 183 species are known to affect buildings and 83 species cause serious structural damage.


Microhabitats

A microhabitat is the small-scale physical requirements of a particular organism or population. Every habitat includes large numbers of microhabitats with subtly different exposure to light, humidity, temperature, air movement, and other factors. The
lichen A lichen ( , ) is a composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among Hypha, filaments of multiple Fungus, fungi species in a mutualism (biology), mutualistic relationship.
s that grow on the north face of a boulder are different from those that grow on the south face, from those on the level top, and those that grow on the ground nearby; the lichens growing in the grooves and on the raised surfaces are different from those growing on the veins of quartz. Lurking among these miniature "forests" are the
microfauna Microfauna (Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycena ...
, species of
invertebrate Invertebrates are animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals Heterotroph, consume organic material, Cellular resp ...
, each with its own specific habitat requirements. There are numerous different microhabitats in a wood; coniferous forest, broad-leafed forest, open woodland, scattered trees, woodland verges, clearings, and glades; tree trunk, branch, twig, bud, leaf, flower, and fruit; rough bark, smooth bark, damaged bark, rotten wood, hollow, groove, and hole; canopy, shrub layer, plant layer, leaf litter, and soil; buttress root, stump, fallen log, stem base, grass tussock, fungus, fern, and moss. The greater the structural diversity in the wood, the greater the number of microhabitats that will be present. A range of tree species with individual specimens of varying sizes and ages, and a range of features such as streams, level areas, slopes, tracks, clearings, and felled areas will provide suitable conditions for an enormous number of biodiverse plants and animals. For example, in Britain it has been estimated that various types of rotting wood are home to over 1700 species of invertebrate. For a parasitic organism, its habitat is the particular part of the outside or inside of its
host A host is a person responsible for guests at an event or for providing hospitality during it. Host may also refer to: Places *Host, Pennsylvania, a village in Berks County People *Jim Host (born 1937), American businessman *Michel Host (bo ...
on or in which it is adapted to live. The
life cycle Life cycle, life-cycle, or lifecycle may refer to: Science and academia *Biological life cycle, the sequence of life stages that an organism undergoes from birth to reproduction ending with the production of the offspring *Life-cycle hypothesis, ...
of some parasites involves several different host species, as well as free-living life stages, sometimes within vastly different microhabitats. One such organism is the trematode (flatworm) ''
Microphallus turgidus ''Microphallus turgidus'' is a widespread and locally common flatworm The flatworms, flat worms, Platyhelminthes, or platyhelminths (from the Greek πλατύ, ''platy'', meaning "flat" and ἕλμινς (root: ἑλμινθ-), ''helminth-'', ...
'', present in brackish water marshes in the southeastern United States. Its first intermediate host is a
snail A snail is, in loose terms, a shelled gastropod. The name is most often applied to land snails, terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusc Mollusca is the second-largest phylum of invertebrate animals after the Arthropoda. The membe ...

snail
and the second, a . The final host is the waterfowl or mammal that consumes the shrimp.


Extreme habitats

Although the vast majority of life on Earth lives in mesophyllic (moderate) environments, a few organisms, most of them
microbes A microorganism, or microbe,, ''mikros'', "small") and ''organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells (cell theory). Organisms ar ...
, have managed to colonise extreme environments that are unsuitable for more complex life forms. There are
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are a type of Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a Bacte ...

bacteria
, for example, living in
Lake Whillans Lake Whillans is a subglacial lake A subglacial lake is a lake that is found under a glacier A glacier ( or ) is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight. A glacier forms where the accumulation of snow ...
, half a mile below the ice of Antarctica; in the absence of sunlight, they must rely on organic material from elsewhere, perhaps decaying matter from glacier melt water or minerals from the underlying rock. Other bacteria can be found in abundance in the
Mariana Trench The Mariana Trench or Marianas Trench is located in the western Pacific Ocean about east of the Mariana Islands; it is the deep sea, deepest oceanic trench on Earth. It is crescent-shaped and measures about in length and in width. The maxim ...
, the deepest place in the ocean and on Earth;
marine snow In the deep ocean, marine snow is a continuous shower of mostly organic detritus In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical process ...

marine snow
drifts down from the surface layers of the sea and accumulates in this undersea valley, providing nourishment for an extensive community of bacteria. Other microbes live in habitats lacking in oxygen, and are dependent on chemical reactions other than
photosynthesis File:Photosynthesis equation.svg, upright=1.8, Overall equation for the type of photosynthesis that occurs in plants Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical energ ...

photosynthesis
. Boreholes drilled into the rocky seabed have found microbial communities apparently based on the products of reactions between water and the constituents of rocks. These communities have not been studied much, but may be an important part of the global
carbon cycle The carbon cycle is the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon Carbon (from la, carbo "coal") is a chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In ...

carbon cycle
. Rock in mines two miles deep also harbour microbes; these live on minute traces of hydrogen produced in slow oxidizing reactions inside the rock. These metabolic reactions allow life to exist in places with no oxygen or light, an environment that had previously been thought to be devoid of life. The intertidal zone and the
photic zone The photic zone, euphotic zone, epipelagic zone, or sunlight zone is the uppermost layer of a body of water (Lysefjord) in Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål ...
in the oceans are relatively familiar habitats. However the vast bulk of the ocean is inhospitable to air-breathing humans, with
scuba divers This is a list of underwater divers whose exploits have made them notable. Pioneers of diving * (1891–1974) helmet diving * (1926–2008) credited with introducing scuba diving to the USA. * (1910–1997) * (1908–1977) * (1913–1991) spe ...

scuba divers
limited to the upper or so. The lower limit for photosynthesis is and below that depth the prevailing conditions include total darkness, high pressure, little oxygen (in some places), scarce food resources and extreme cold. This habitat is very challenging to research, and as well as being little-studied, it is vast, with 79% of the Earth's
biosphere The biosphere (from Greek βίος ''bíos'' "life" and σφαῖρα ''sphaira'' "sphere"), also known as the ecosphere (from Greek οἶκος ''oîkos'' "environment" and σφαῖρα), is the worldwide sum of all ecosystem An ecosyst ...
being at depths greater than . With no plant life, the animals in this zone are either
detritivores are soil-dwelling detritivores. Detritivores (also known as detrivores, detritophages, detritus feeders, or detritus eaters) are heterotrophs that obtain nutrients by consuming detritus (decomposing plant and animal parts as well as feces). There ...
s, reliant on food drifting down from surface layers, or they are predators, feeding on each other. Some organisms are
pelagic The pelagic zone consists of the water column A water column is a Concept, conceptual column of water from the surface of a sea, river or lake to the bottom sediment.Munson, B.H., Axler, R., Hagley C., Host G., Merrick G., Richards C. (2004) ...
, swimming or drifting in mid-ocean, while others are benthic, living on or near the seabed. Their growth rates and metabolisms tend to be slow, their eyes may be very large to detect what little illumination there is, or they may be blind and rely on other sensory inputs. A number of deep sea creatures are
bioluminescent Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation within the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be visual perception, perceived by the human eye. Visible light is ...
; this serves a variety of functions including predation, protection and social recognition. In general, the bodies of animals living at great depths are adapted to high pressure environments by having pressure-resistant
biomolecules , showing alpha helices The alpha helix (α-helix) is a common motif in the secondary structure Biomolecular structure is the intricate folded, three-dimensional shape that is formed by a molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scan ...
and small organic molecules present in their cells known as piezolytes, which give the proteins the flexibility they need. There are also unsaturated fats in their membranes which prevent them from solidifying at low temperatures.
Hydrothermal vent A hydrothermal vent is a fissure A fissure is a long, narrow crack opening along the surface of the Earth. It is derived from the Latin word , which means 'cleft' or 'crack'. Fissures emerge in the Earth's crust, on ice sheets and glaciers, and ...
s were first discovered in the ocean depths in 1977. They result from seawater becoming heated after seeping through cracks to places where hot
magma 300px, Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States, located in the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles from the U.S. mainland. It is the only state outside North America, the only state that is ...

magma
is close to the seabed. The under-water hot springs may gush forth at temperatures of over and support unique communities of organisms in their immediate vicinity. The basis for this teeming life is
chemosynthesis In biochemistry, chemosynthesis is the biological conversion of one or more carbon-containing molecules (usually carbon dioxide or methane) and nutrients into organic matter using the oxidation of inorganic compounds (e.g., hydrogen gas, hydroge ...
, a process by which microbes convert such substances as
hydrogen sulfide Hydrogen sulfide is a chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecular entities) composed of atoms from more than one chemical element, element held together by ...

hydrogen sulfide
or
ammonia Ammonia is a chemical compound, compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the chemical formula, formula NH3. A Binary compounds of hydrogen, stable binary hydride, and the simplest pnictogen hydride, ammonia is a colourless gas with a distinct p ...

ammonia
into organic molecules. These bacteria and
Archaea Archaea ( ; singular archaeon ) constitute a domain Domain may refer to: Mathematics *Domain of a function, the set of input values for which the (total) function is defined **Domain of definition of a partial function **Natural domain of a pa ...

Archaea
are the primary producers in these ecosystems and support a diverse array of life. About 350 species of organism, dominated by
molluscs Mollusca is the second-largest phylum of invertebrate animals after the Arthropoda. The members are known as molluscs or mollusks (). Around 85,000 extant taxon, extant species of molluscs are recognized. The number of fossil species is es ...

molluscs
, and
crustacean Crustaceans (Crustacea ) form a large, diverse arthropod taxon which includes such animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, Caridea, shrimp, krill, Dendrobranchiata, prawns, woodlice, barnacles, copepods, amphipoda, amphipods and mantis shrimp. The ...
s, had been discovered around hydrothermal vents by the end of the twentieth century, most of them being new to science and
endemic Endemism is the state of a species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interact ...
to these habitats. Besides providing locomotion opportunities for winged animals and a conduit for the dispersal of
pollen File:Pollen Tube.svg, Pollen Tube Diagram Pollen is a powdery substance consisting of pollen grains which are Sporophyte, microsporophytes of spermatophyta, seed plants, which produce male gametes (sperm cells). Pollen grains have a hard coat ma ...

pollen
grains,
spore )'', growing on a thinning, thinned hybrid black poplar ''(populus, Populus x canadensis)''. The last stage of the moss#Life cycle, moss lifecycle is shown, where the sporophytes are visible before dispersion of their spores: the calyptra (1) is ...
s and
seed A seed is an embryonic ''Embryonic'' is the twelfth studio album by experimental rock band the Flaming Lips released on October 13, 2009, on Warner Bros. Records, Warner Bros. The band's first double album, it was released to generally positiv ...

seed
s, the
atmosphere An atmosphere (from the greek words ἀτμός ''(atmos)'', meaning 'vapour', and σφαῖρα ''(sphaira)'', meaning 'ball' or 'sphere') is a layer or a set of layers of gases surrounding a planet or other material body, that is held in ...

atmosphere
can be considered to be a habitat-type in its own right. There are metabolically active microbes present that actively reproduce and spend their whole existence airborne, with hundreds of thousands of individual organisms estimated to be present in a cubic meter of air. The airborne microbial community may be as diverse as that found in soil or other terrestrial environments, however these organisms are not evenly distributed, their densities varying spatially with altitude and environmental conditions.
Aerobiology Aerobiology (from Greek ἀήρ, ''aēr'', " air"; βίος, ''bios'', "life"; and wiktionary:-λογία, -λογία, ''wiktionary:-logia, -logia'') is a branch of biology that studies organic particles, such as bacteria, fungal spores, very s ...
has not been studied much, but there is evidence of
nitrogen fixation Nitrogen fixation is a chemical process by which molecular nitrogen Nitrogen is the chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol N and atomic number 7. It was first discovered and isolated by Scottish physician Daniel Rutherford in 177 ...

nitrogen fixation
in
cloud In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. L ...

cloud
s, and less clear evidence of carbon cycling, both facilitated by microbial activity. There are other examples of extreme habitats where specially adapted lifeforms exist;
tar pit A tar pit A tar pit, or more accurately an asphalt pit or asphalt lake, is the result of a type of petroleum seep where subterranean bitumen Asphalt, also known as bitumen (, ), is a sticky, black, highly viscous liquid or semi-solid fo ...
s teeming with microbial life; naturally occurring crude oil pools inhabited by the larvae of the petroleum fly;
hot spring A hot spring, hydrothermal spring, or geothermal spring is a spring Spring(s) may refer to: Common uses * Spring (season), a season of the year * Spring (device), a mechanical device that stores energy * Spring (hydrology), a natural source of w ...
s where the temperature may be as high as and
cyanobacteria Cyanobacteria (), also known as Cyanophyta, are a phylum (biology), phylum of Gram-negative bacteria that obtain energy via photosynthesis. The name ''cyanobacteria'' refers to their color (), giving them their other name, "blue-green algae", t ...

cyanobacteria
create
microbial mat The cyanobacterial algal mat, salty lake on the White Sea">algal_mat.html" ;"title="cyanobacterial algal mat">cyanobacterial algal mat, salty lake on the White Sea seaside A microbial mat is a multi-layered sheet of microorganisms, mainly bacteria ...
s; cold seeps where the methane and hydrogen sulfide issue from the ocean floor and support microbes and higher animals such as mussels which form Symbiosis, symbiotic associations with these anaerobic organisms; Salt pan (geology), salt pans harbour halotolerance, salt-tolerant
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are a type of Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a Bacte ...

bacteria
and archaea and also fungi such as the black yeast ''Hortaea werneckii'' and Basidiomycota, basidomycete ''Wallemia ichthyophaga''; ice sheets in Antarctica which support fungi ''Thelebolus'' spp., glacial ice with a variety of bacteria and fungi; and snowfields on which algae grow.


Habitat change

Whether from natural processes or the activities of man, landscapes and their associated habitats change over time. There are the slow Geomorphology, geomorphological changes associated with the geologic processes that cause tectonic uplift and subsidence, and the more rapid changes associated with earthquakes, landslides, storms, flooding, wildfires, coastal erosion, deforestation and changes in land use. Then there are the changes in habitats brought on by alterations in farming practices, tourism, pollution, Habitat fragmentation, fragmentation and climate change. Loss of habitat is the single greatest threat to any species. If an island on which an endemic organism lives becomes uninhabitable for some reason, the species will become Extinction, extinct. Any type of habitat surrounded by a different habitat is in a similar situation to an island. If a forest is divided into parts by logging, with strips of cleared land separating woodland blocks, and the distances between the remaining fragments exceeds the distance an individual animal is able to travel, that species becomes especially vulnerable. Small populations generally lack genetic diversity and may be threatened by increased predation, increased competition, disease and unexpected catastrophe. At the edge of each forest fragment, increased light encourages secondary growth of fast-growing species and old growth trees are more vulnerable to logging as access is improved. The birds that nest in their crevices, the epiphytes that hang from their branches and the invertebrates in the leaf litter are all adversely affected and biodiversity is reduced. Habitat fragmentation can be ameliorated to some extent by the provision of wildlife corridors connecting the fragments. These can be a river, ditch, strip of trees, hedgerow or even an underpass to a highway. Without the corridors, seeds cannot disperse and animals, especially small ones, cannot travel through the hostile territory, putting populations at greater risk of local extinction. Habitat disturbance can have long-lasting effects on the environment. ''Bromus tectorum'' is a vigorous grass from Europe which has been introduced to the United States where it has become invasive. It is highly adapted to fire, producing large amounts of flammable detritus and increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires. In areas where it has become established, it has altered the local fire regimen to such an extant that native plants cannot survive the frequent fires, allowing it to become even more dominant. A marine example is when sea urchin populations "Population ecology, explode" in coastal waters and destroy all the Seaweed, macroalgae present. What was previously a kelp forest becomes an urchin barren that may last for years and this can have a profound effect on the food chain. Removal of the sea urchins, by disease for example, can result in the seaweed returning, with an over-abundance of fast-growing kelp.


Fragmentation


Destruction


Habitat protection

The protection of habitats is a necessary step in the maintenance of biodiversity because if habitat destruction occurs, the animals and plants reliant on that habitat suffer. Many countries have enacted legislation to protect their wildlife. This may take the form of the setting up of national parks, forest reserves and wildlife reserves, or it may restrict the activities of humans with the objective of benefiting wildlife. The laws may be designed to protect a particular species or group of species, or the legislation may prohibit such activities as the collecting of bird eggs, the hunting of animals or the removal of plants. A general law on the protection of habitats may be more difficult to implement than a site specific requirement. A concept introduced in the United States in 1973 involves protecting the critical habitat of endangered species, and a similar concept has been incorporated into some Australian legislation. International treaties may be necessary for such objectives as the setting up of marine reserves. Another international agreement, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, protects animals that migrate across the globe and need protection in more than one country. Even where legislation protects the environment, a lack of enforcement often prevents effective protection. However, the protection of habitats needs to take into account the needs of the local residents for food, fuel and other resources. Faced with hunger and destitution, a farmer is likely to plough up a level patch of ground despite it being the last suitable habitat for an endangered species such as the San Quintin kangaroo rat, and even kill the animal as a pest. In the interests of ecotourism it is desirable that local communities are educated on the uniqueness of their flora and fauna.


Monotypic habitat

A monotypic habitat-type is a concept sometimes used in conservation biology, in which a single species of animal or plant is the only species of its type to be found in a specific habitat and forms a monoculture. Even though it might seem such a habitat-type is impoverished in biodiversity as compared with wikt:polytypic, polytypic habitats, this is not necessarily the case. Monocultures of the exotic plant ''Hydrilla'' support a similarly rich fauna of invertebrates as a more varied habitat. The monotypic habitat occurs in both botanical and zoological contexts. Some invasive species may create monocultural stands that prevent other species from growing there. A dominant Colonisation (biology), colonization can occur from retardant chemicals exuded, nutrient monopolization, or from lack of natural controls such as herbivores or climate, that keep them in balance with their native habitats. The Centaurea solstitialis, yellow starthistle, ''Centaurea solstitialis'', is a botanical monotypic habitat example of this, currently dominating over in California alone. The non-native freshwater Zebra mussel, zebra mussel, ''Dreissena polymorpha'', that colonizes areas of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River drainage basin, watershed, is a zoological monotypic habitat example; the predators or parasites that control it in its home-range in Russia are absent.


See also

* * * * * * * * : the loss of habitat


Notes and references


External links

* * {{Authority control Habitat, Habitats, Ecology Landscape ecology Systems ecology