A habitat is a place in which a particular organism lives and adapts according to environmental conditions. A niche is an idea or role played by the organism to live in an environment with diet and shelter.
A habitat defines the interaction of the organisms with other living and non-living factors, whereas a niche describes how a specific organism is linked with its physical and biological environment. The niche is concerned with the gaining of energy by the organisms and providing it to the others living in the ecosystem. Habitat is the component of the ecosystem, whereas niche plays a significant role in the formation of an ecosystem. Each organism plays a specific role in its ecosystem and has a well-defined niche in the ecosystem. Habitat and niche can be understood with the example of the earthworm. An earthworm can be found in small parts of soil or agricultural land. Both are their habitat. It performs the same role in both habitats; decomposition of dead material, which is the niche of earthworm.
Both habitat and niche are parts of the ecosystem and closely related. Ecology is the study of all living things and their interactions with the environment’s living components; plant, animal, and other organisms and non-living components soil, water, rocks, and climate. Both habitat and niche are usually used interchangeably but have many differences.
|Basis for Comparison||Habitat||Niche|
|Definition||A place and area where a particular organism lives in an ecosystem are called a habitat.||A function an organism performs in its habitat is called a niche.|
|Components||Numerous niches||No components|
|Support||Numerous species at a time||Only one species at a time|
|Nature||Physical part||The function of the organism|
|Types||Different types: aquatic habitat, terrestrial habitat, etc.||Three types: spatial niche, trophic niche, and multidimensional niche|
|Example||Desert, island, forest, mountains, rivers, oceans, etc.||Part of habitat for the shelter of an organism.|
What is Habitat?
The area or place in which a particular species live is called a habitat. We can say that habitat is the address of an organism. A habitat is a real place in an ecosystem. Many abiotic factors such as sunlight, rainfall, annual temperature, type of soil, and other factors affect the presence of organisms and characteristics in the environment. These biotic factors help in determining the existence of a specific type of species suited for that environment.
Habitat is a nutrient or energy-providing area for all organisms, irrespective of the kind of species. Habitat defines a field, whereas all organisms live in the natural environment and show their way of living. River, pond, and ocean are the best example of any habitat as many organisms are found in the same place. These habitats can be terrestrial, aerial, arboreal, aquatic, etc.
What is a Niche?
Grinnell used the term niche first time in 1971. This term is not still well defined and needs explanation. It is frequently misused and used interchangeably in place of habitat. But the fact is, the niche is not habitat. It is an idea of the distributional unit where organisms are kept within their boundaries. It can be further described as the appearance and post of species in the environment, for instance, how they fulfill their needs and how they survive in their environment, etc. So we can say niche is not a habitat or place; it is an idea to describe the organism’s requirements and tolerance. It interacts with all biotic and abiotic factors such as pH, soil, temperature, moisture, trophic conditions, and climate. So niche is described by “n” variables and limitations of all-important environmental factors because all factors (biotic and abiotic) affect the living and survival of organisms.
As niche is the functional role of an organism in its specific environment in which it also interacts with other organisms living in the same niche. Hence, it also deals with the flow of energy that passes from one organism to another organism. As soon as some organisms leave a niche, it is filled by other organisms that take the previous organism’s place. But if species develops its unique niche in an ecosystem, it would be of great help in reducing competition for resources among different species. For example, take the example of a bird. Some birds eat insects, some eat fruits and some eat all the things. So all these birds have different niches, even living in the same habitat. So these different niches provide them their food irrespective of available resources.
It is also possible for two different organisms having the same niche to live in the same habitat. For example, take the example of deer and rabbits, both live in different places; woody areas and open areas but perform the same role as herbivores.
There are three types of niches; spatial or habitat niche, trophic niche, and hypervolume or multidimensional niche. Spatial niche deals with the physical space occupied by the organisms. Atrophic niche is a type of niche based on the food level or an organization. While the third type of niche, the multidimensional niche is a complex niche and includes fundamental and realized niches.
Key Differences between Habitat and Niche
- Habitat is an area where organisms live, whereas niche is an ideology of the organism’s living.
- Habitat consists of multiple niches, whereas niche does not have such sub-components.
- Habitat is not species-specific, whereas niche is species-specific.
- Habitat is for many species at a time, whereas niche is for a single species.
- Species do not change their habitat, whereas species live in different niches in different phases of its life.
In conclusion, habitat and niche are both integral parts of the ecosystem and for the survival and support of species diversity. Habitat is the physical part, whereas niche is the functional part of the ecosystem.