What is the difference between a niche and a habitat?

Establish the difference between fundamental niche and realized niche.

The ecological niche occupied by each species is the result of interspecific competition that displaces species to occupy different sites. An example can be seen when exotic species that are introduced into an ecosystem displace native species to more restricted niches.

By Vergleich_Hausratte_Wanderratte_DE.svg: Sponk (talk), based on a work by Karim-Pierre Maalejtranslated by: Sponk (Vergleich_Hausratte_Wanderratte_DE.svg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


When talking about habitats, ecosystems and ecological niche in ecology and the environment, people often confuse these concepts very easily. Many different species are geographically distant, but share similar functions in the habitat where they live. This is what is known as ecological niche, roughly speaking.

There are millions of bird species around the world that perform the same functions in ecosystems but cannot mate with each other. However, there are also species that are disparate and perform similar functions in ecosystems. This occurs, for example, between species such as the woodpecker and the aye-aye.

The functions and interrelationships that an organism has with the rest of the living beings within the ecosystem is known as the ecological niche. The ecosystem is the area where different characteristics are found that make it possible to inhabit a place. On the other hand, the habitat is nothing more than the area of the ecosystem where a living being lives and develops its life. The easiest example is that in a forest ecosystem, a species of bird has its habitat in the canopy of the trees and the relationships they have with other living beings in their environment is the ecological niche.

Difference between habitat and ecosystem

Any individual of any animal species that inhabits our planet survives, grows and reproduces in its particular ecosystem, always within certain limits. That is why in ecology, when we talk about these organisms and the environment in which they live, we use the terms habitat and ecological niche. Both terms refer to different things, but often, they are synonymous terms for people in general.Today in Green Ecology we clarify the difference between habitat and ecological niche with examples of each.

Habitat is defined as the physical place occupied by the organism itself and is a definition widely used to define where a species is found. In turn, the habitat of an organism is characterized by conditions within certain limits and resources. When selecting their habitat, species choose the most suitable one or the one that allows them to survive. Thus, the habitat occupied by a given organism depends on what it is capable of colonizing and dispersing.

Ecological niche

In ecology, a niche is a property that describes a species or population in an ecosystem.[1][2] The niche is an abstract but central concept in ecology. Although there are several definitions of niche, one of the most commonly used definitions describes the niche as a multidimensional hypervolume that includes all the biotic and abiotic factors with which the organism is related.[3] This hypervolume has n dimensions, where each dimension corresponds to the factors described above.[3] Thus, the niche involves all the resources present in the environment, the adaptations of the organism to be studied and how these two are related (level of adaptation, efficiency of consumption, etc.). The ecological niche allows many species, herbivorous, carnivorous or omnivorous, to coexist in a given area, each of them having specialized in a certain plant or prey, without being in competition with each other.[2]

The niche influences in several ways: one is how a population responds to the abundance of its resources and enemies (e.g., by growing when resources are abundant and predators, parasites and pathogens are scarce),[3] and another is how the population affects these same factors (e.g., by reducing the abundance of resources through consumption and contributing to population growth by falling prey to them).[2] The niche also influences how a population responds to the abundance of resources and enemies (e.g., by growing when resources are abundant and predators, parasites, and pathogens are scarce).