Biomes, ecosystems, and habitats have a lot of overlap. The lines between them aren’t always apparent.
In a nutshell, a habitat is an environment in which a particular animal or plant (or type of animal or plant) lives. For example, polar bears live in the arctic ice. Spider monkeys like to live at the tops of trees in rainforests—pill bugs like wet locations beneath rocks as their home. A “biome” is a broad term that refers to a certain “kind” of environment, such as the rainforest, desert, open ocean, or polar ice caps.
Habitats are often found inside all types of biomes. A network of living beings and the nonliving environment in which they dwell is referred to as an ecosystem.
Although it has more overlaps with habitats, an ecosystem may include a broad range of habitats and even biomes. Simply described, a habitat is a physical environment on which members of a species rely to carry out one or more life activities. It can also be thought of as specific regions having existing characteristics that may sustain members of a species.
We’ll go through ten of the world’s most important habitats on a larger scale.
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10 Major Types of Habitats
1. Intertidal Zones
Intertidal zones can be found wherever the ocean joins the earth, whether it be sharp, craggy cliffs to long, sloping shorelines and thousands of meters of tidal flats.
The intertidal zone is divided into 4 basic categories, each with distinctive properties and biological variations. These divisions are the high intertidal zone, spray zone, middle intertidal zone, and low intertidal zone. Sea sprays and large waves drench spray zones, which are only underwater at very significant tides or intense storms.
During the maxima of regular high tides, the high intertidal zones fill yet stay dry for long periods of time amid high tides. Crustaceans, sea snails, clams, bivalves, shoreline crabs, and horseshoe crabs are among the hardy water life that can resist the hammering waves.
The tides in the middle intertidal zone wax and wane roughly twice per day, and the area is home to a wider diversity of flora and organisms, notably starfish and sea anemones.
Other than at the weakest spring tides, low intertidal zones are almost constantly submerged under the water. Due to the general safety offered by the water, wildlife is much more plentiful here.
Sea organisms in the intertidal zone organize linearly based on their ability to contend for territory, escape predators, and prevent withering from dehydration. Inhabitants of the upper intertidal zones could seal themselves completely inside their seashells to stay wet and hide from enemies, or they can move to a submerged zone whenever the tide fades.
Many life forms anchor their bodies to the bottom of the intertidal zone and are quite robust, adaptable, and highly equipped to withstand wave power. Bigger sea creatures, such as all types of seals, sea lions, and fish find scavenging for sustenance in the intertidal zone optimal during high tide, whereas a huge number of smaller aquatic life, including fish, find it perfect at low tide.
2. Cloud Forests
A cloud forest, also known as a tropical montane cloud forest (TMCF), is a damp, annual plant, humid or subtropical forest associated with chronic, regular, or cyclical moderate cloud cover, generally occurring around the canopy level.
Cloud forests are sometimes known as mossy woods because they have an excess of mosses, blanketing the grounds and flora. Mossy forests typically grow on mountain slopes, wherein precipitation supplied by lowering clouds is better held.
Cloud forests are reliant on nearby weather patterns (which are influenced by proximity to the ocean), latitude (between 23°N and 25°S), and altitude (ranging from 500m-4000m/ 1,640.42 ft-13,123.36 ft above sea level).
Usually, the meteorological climate is only ideal for cloud forest formation within a narrow band of altitude. This is marked by continuous fog at the foliage layer, which reduces full sunlight and, as a consequence, evaporation as well as transpiration.
Almost all of the precipitation accessible to the flora in cloud forests takes the shape of fog drop, which occurs when fog accumulates on tree leaves as condensation and then falls onto the earth underneath.
3. African Savannah
The African savanna habitat is a subtropical grassland with warm climates throughout the year. Most rainfall occurs during the summer. The grasses and demure or scattered trees that make up the savanna fail to form a complete canopy, enabling plenty of light to touch the surface. A varied population of creatures coexists in the African savanna to construct a sophisticated food chain.
The African Savanna receives nearly the identical amount of rain each year as the state of Wisconsin in North America. It receives an average of 15 to 25 inches (38.1 cm-63.5 cm) of rain monthly during the rainy period, which runs from May to November. However, It only receives around 4 inches (10.16 cm) of rain during the dry period.
During October to March throughout the southern hemisphere as well as April through September within the northern hemisphere, the dry period runs over seven months. The dry period occurs when the sun is lower, and the wet period occurs when the sun is higher. The African savannah has a tropical climate that is both wet and dry.
The African Savanna is described as a meandering grassland studded with plants. The habitat is classified as a thornbush savanna with a variety of flora, including the candelabra tree, the acacia Senegal, umbrella thorn acacia, jackalberry tree, bermuda grass, whistling thorn, elephant grass, and baobabs, among others.
The Serengeti Plains are a grass savanna with nutritionally volcanic soil that is exceedingly arid. The savanna is home to over 2 million huge herbivorous creatures.
4. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the world’s largest and most intact environments. Since 1960, it has mostly had political backing for its preservation. The federal government is currently attempting to open this delicate territory to oil and gas production, notably the Coastal Plain, which is home to the Porcupine Caribou’s calving sites.
The majority of the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land. The Arctic is largely submerged in water, with much of it solidified. The Arctic’s glaciers and icecaps cover around 10% of the planet’s land area.
The Arctic Ocean’s basin provides the majority of the Arctic’s liquid saltwater. Some sections of the water’s surface are iced for the whole year or the majority of it. The Arctic is most recognized for the sea ice that surrounds it.
The Arctic is subjected to high levels of sun radiation. The Arctic suffers freezing temperatures and darkness during the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere, making it one of the world’s most unusual locales. The refuge contains North America’s two largest alpine lakes. The ANWR is almost the same size as South Carolina.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s final Environmental Impact Report was issued in September of 2019. The national government has proposed that drilling be allowed in practically all of the planned regions. The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act was enacted within the same week, with the goal of safeguarding wildlife who’ve already depended on the Arctic Refuge for ages.
5. Mariana Trench
The Mariana Trench is a sickle-shaped trench in the Western Pacific, located east of the Mariana Islands. The land near the gap is notable for its diverse ecosystems. The Mariana Trench is home to the world’s deepest known locations, vents spewing fluid sulfur and co2 gas, dynamic mud volcanoes, and aquatic species acclimated to pressures 1,000 times greater than at ocean level.
Challenger Deep, a minor sharp ravine on the bottom of the main trench near Guam, has the deepest reaches. In 2009, the Mariana Trench, inside of the United States’ dependencies, was named as a historic site.
6. Oyster Reefs
The phrase oyster reef applies to enormous colonies of oysters that create dense agglomerations. Newer oyster reefs may emerge on rocks or other solid aquatic habitats since oyster larvae must lodge on hard surfaces. Creating settlements upon the shells of elderly or deceased oysters will subsequently proliferate the oyster reef.
Oyster reefs, oyster beds, oyster banks, oyster bottoms, and oyster bars are all interchangeable terms to describe dense groupings of oysters. These phrases aren’t well specified and are frequently limited to specific regions.
Oysters eat phytoplankton suspended in the water and other organic substances disrupting the oysters’ filter-feeding process can result in a reduction in plant matter removal from the surrounding water and a rise in phytoplankton concentration. This could result in annual anoxia that may exacerbate fatality in other estuarine sea creatures.
Carbon sequestration and excessive nutrient intake can both be influenced by oyster reefs. They also help to maintain coastlines by increasing silt accumulation and absorbing tidal power, leading to the formation of additional ecosystems such as seagrasses and marshes whilst reducing coastal erosion.
7. FloodPlain Forests
Floodplain forests are usually found beside streams in lower, flood-prone locations, typically below 20 feet (6.09 m) from the main river. They’re frequently connected with oxbows (river ponds that become isolated out from stream channels), vernal pools (fleeting wetlands which evaporate during summers), broad grassy meadows, and extensive brush undergrowth.
These forests’ frequent floods recycle sediments and minerals, resulting in several of the finest residual soils on the planet. Floodplain forests are distinct from other types of woods because they experience floods on a regular basis. These periodic disruptions, which release sediment and sands along riverbanks, aid in the creation and maintenance of distinct natural vegetation that can withstand floods and demand nutritionally dense soils.
Floodplain forests provide a variety of free ecological functions to our civilization, including preventing contaminants from entering waterways, improving water cleanliness, managing land degradation, and protecting any bodies of water from devastating floods.
A wide range of species can be found on floodplains. Insect and amphibian reproductive environments flourish in the damp grounds, and such creatures provide meals for birds like all kinds of owls, mink, and wood turtles.
A lagoon is a body of water with a buffer zone separating it from deeper water. Atolls and coastal lagoons are two kinds of lagoons. Once an island sinks below the sea, a circle of coral grows skyward, forming an atoll. A substantial stretch of water is situated near the center of the loop. A lagoon is formed by the interaction of coral development and water. The creation of an atoll can take up to 300,000 years.
The coastal Lagoons develop along the shores that are moderately sloped. They are not as deep as atolls and are usually isolated away from the sea by a significant landmass, coral, or sand bar. Coastal lagoons are usually linked to a sea via inlets.
The creation of coastal environments is influenced by sea-level rise, the quantity of existing silt, and tidal magnitude. Coastal lagoons, which are newer and much more volatile than atoll lagoons, could possess shorter “lifetimes” because of their vulnerable shore placements. A variety of crabs, shelled creatures, and nematodes can be found in lagoons.
9. Coniferous Forest
A coniferous forest is a type of habitat prevalent in locations with harsh winters and medium to high average precipitation and is made up mostly of needle or scale-leaved evergreen trees that produce cones. The boreal forest, located in Northern Eurasia, would be an example of a coniferous forest. Mountains in various places around the globe are covered in coniferous woods. These forests are dominated by pine trees, fir trees, larches, and spruces.
Podzols are light-colored, generally caustic soils found in coniferous woods. They possess a compressed layer that is rich with fungal growth. Nutrient composition, plant waste, and organisms including earthworms are all prevalent within these soils.
10. Sky Islands
A Sky Island is a mountainous region that is isolated from other mountainous regions by a considerable distance and by significantly diverse bottoms. At various heights, ecology zones shift as the peak rises in altitude. A Sky Island range is defined as a peak that climbs 3,000 feet (914.4 m) or more in height, contains oak forests, and is separated from neighboring mountains by lower altitude deserts or grasslands.
A few of the natural attractions seen on the Sky Islands include endemic species (species seen in no other area of the world), creatures that migrate across low and high terrain (this is referred to as vertical migration), and migrant species who live in a single, final remaining location (relict populations).
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Threats and Causes of Habitat Destruction
Threats to Intertidal Zone
Coastal and intertidal zones face a number of hazards, including increasing sea levels, erosion, all types of storms, ocean acidification, and rising temperatures. Storms damage crucial habitat and dump silt and debris along the shore as they sweep across coastal regions.
Threats to Cloud Forests
“Cloud forests are found only at specific mid-to-high elevations, and their species are particularly susceptible to the loss of the cold, damp climate in which they thrive.”
The biggest threats to cloud forests across the globe right now are habitat loss and degradation due to human intrusion. However, given cloud forests’ limited environmental tolerance, climate change caused by humans might pose an even more significant threat in the near future.
When the effects of prospective human forest removal and land usage are included, the estimated surviving area is less than 1% of its current size or roughly 151 square kilometers (58.30 sq miles).
Threats to African Savannah
Human activities like logging, development, conversion to agriculture, cattle overgrazing, and the introduction of non-native plant species are all threatening savannas across the globe. Overgrazing by goats and cattle, for example, has eliminated much of the vegetation that keeps the soil in place in the drier sections of the African savanna. As a result, desert-like conditions have developed.
Logging has also impacted much of the southern United States’ longleaf pine savannas.
Threats to Alaska’s National Arctic Wildlife Refuge
The Arctic is now warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Since 1949, the Arctic Refuge’s average temperature has climbed to 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit (-14.16 Celsius). Sea ice, snow, and permafrost are all disappearing as the climate warms. The temperature increases at a higher rate when these landscapes melt.
Local animals, birds, and humans are all affected by climate change. Polar bears, in particular, are in grave danger, having previously been designated as an endangered species. They also have a detrimental impact on the rest of the United States and the rest of the planet.
Threats to the Mariana Trench
According to research published in February 2017, the Mariana Trench has greater levels of the total pollution in certain areas than some of China’s most polluted rivers. Chemical contaminants in the trench may have resulted in part from the degradation of plastic in the water column, according to the study’s authors.
Threats to the Oyster Reefs
In recent years, the subject of oyster reef restoration has gotten increased attention and support. To induce oyster spat settling, oyster reef restoration initiatives often use sterilized shells of dead oysters, concrete, or limestone fragments on a soft bottom.
Restoring these habitats has a number of advantages, including decreasing phytoplankton blooms by enhancing filter-feeding behavior, increasing nutrient sequestration and denitrification rates, raising nekton biomass, and perhaps increasing commercial fisheries value.
Finding data on previously completed restoration projects, on the other hand, might be difficult to come by, putting future restoration attempts at a disadvantage.
Threats to Floodplain Forests
Dams and invasive species are two threats to our surviving floodplain forests, in addition to clearance for agriculture and development. Dams change the river’s natural flooding pattern and capture nutrient-rich sediments that would otherwise end up in these woods.
Threats to Lagoons
Despite their importance for conservation, eutrophication, pollution, urbanization, and other types of watershed change induced by human activities in the coastal zones of all continents pose a severe danger to coastal lagoons. Low-lying, shallow-gradient coastal habitats are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.
Threats to the Coniferous Forests
Clear-cutting is the most serious hazard to coniferous forests. Agriculture is the primary driver of clear-cutting, which is the large removal of trees in a given region. Because coniferous trees are slow to expand, the harm is irreversible. Even when trees are transplanted, they are usually of the same species, resulting in monoculture and poor growth. Erosion, habitat loss, and a lack of variety are all exacerbated by the loss of trees.
Threats to the Sky Islands
Sky Islands are unlike any other kind of island. Sky islands, rather than being surrounded by water, are encircled by clouds. Mountain summits of Arizona, New Mexico, and Chihuahua soar thousands of feet above the earth. The peaks of these mountains have distinct microclimates that are known as biodiversity hotspots across the globe.
Droughts linked to climate change are a major threat to the Sky Islands.
Common Animals Found in Each Habitat
Sea stars, snails, seaweed, algae, and crabs live in the intertidal zones of rocky shorelines. Barnacles, mussels, and kelps may attach themselves to the rocks and live in this environment. During low tide, barnacles and mussels may store seawater in their closed shells to prevent it from drying out.
The most prevalent animal seen in cloud forests is bats. There are many kinds of bats in the cloud forest, as well as howler monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, pacas (a pig-like animal), jaguars, and many other mammals. The cloud forest is home to thousands of insect and arthropod species, including katydids, walking sticks, leaf-cutter ants, and army ants.
The Serengeti Plains are home to 45 animal species, about 500 bird species, and 55 acacia species. Lions, African wildcats, klipspringer, steenbok, Burchell’s zebra, African savanna monitor, and puff adders are among the creatures found there. Antelopes, wildebeest, buffalos, zebras, and rhinoceros are among the most diverse hoofed mammals on the planet.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Polar, grizzly, and black bears, over 200 bird species, eight marine mammal species, and thousands of caribou, wolves, muskoxen, and moose call it home. Many of these species rely on the Arctic Refuge’s unique ecosystem to live and thrive.
Polar bears establish their dens here, the world’s biggest herd of caribou, the Porcupine Caribou herd, utilizes the coastline as a calving area, and migratory birds from all across North America arrive to reproduce.
Xenophyophores, amphipods, and tiny sea cucumbers (holothurians) are the three most abundant creatures found at the Mariana Trench’s bottom, according to Gallo. The single-celled xenophyophores look like enormous amoebas and feed by encircling and consuming their prey.
Oyster reefs, contrary to popular belief, are home to a variety of creatures other than oysters. These reefs provide a haven for a diverse range of crabs, fish, and other marine life. The surface area of oyster beds is 50 times that of a basic ocean bottom.
Other marine life species may find shelter and safety in these nooks and crannies. Striped bass, flounder, mackerel, and menhaden are among the economically significant species that may be found there. Young fish may take sanctuary on the reef from predators and storms. They provide a secure environment for children to develop into adults.
A wide range of species may be found in floodplain woods. Insect and amphibian breeding environments flourish in the wet soils, and these species become prey for birds like the woodcock and barred owl, mammals like minks and wood turtles.
Many aquatic creatures, including redfish, spotted sea trout, tarpon, snook, tarpon, pompano, sheepshead, mullet sheepshead, seahorses, blue crabs, hermit crabs, pink shrimp, scallops, clams, marine worms, marine snails, and other crustaceans, use these habitats for breeding, rearing, and hunting grounds.
Mosquitoes, flies, and other insects are widespread in the coniferous forest, but due to the severe temperatures, few cold-blooded animals such as all snake species and frogs may be found. Woodpeckers, crossbills, warblers, kinglets, nuthatches, waxwings, grouse, hawks, and different types of owls are among the birds.
Shrews, voles, lynx, martens, moose, reindeer, squirrels, and wolves species are among the most prominent animals.
The Sky Islands area is home to at least 41 species, several of which are endangered. Jaguars, ocelots, Mexican gray wolves, thick-billed parrots, New Mexican ridge-nosed rattlesnakes, and Apache trout are among them.