Caught in the act!

Bracketing Habitats
by Dr Barbara Corker, Education Officer

cology is awash with terms such as 'habitat',  'microhabitat', 'ecosystem' and 'niche'. While we usually have an intuitive understanding of what they mean, it can sometimes be less simple to define them exactly.

The term 'habitat' refers to a location occupied by a species or a community of species, such as a woodland. A habitat equates to an 'address', whereas an ecosystem  encompasses all the things which affect a particular habitat. This includes everything from the plants and animals in the habitat, to the climate and the soil. Within a particular ecosystem, different species will occupy different 'niches'. This basically equates to their occupation, for example, their position within the food web in the ecosystem. 

When two species occupy the same general habitat but live in slightly different places within it, they are said to be in different microhabitats (the house number in the address, if you like). For example, different species of millipedes living on a woodland floor actually live in seven or more different microhabitats. These range from heartwood at the centre of logs, to the outer surface of logs beneath the bark, through to the leaf litter underneath.

The Woodland Education Centre - Winter News
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