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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 ...
, 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 A resource is a source or supply from which a benefit is produced and that has some utility. Resources can broadly be classified upon their availability — they are classified into renewable and non-renewable resources. They can also be classif ...
and competitors (for example, by growing when resources are abundant, and when
predator Predation is a biological interaction 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 env ...

predator
s,
parasite Parasitism is a Symbiosis, close relationship between species, where one organism, the parasite, lives on or inside another organism, the Host (biology), host, causing it some harm, and is adaptation (biology), adapted structurally to this wa ...
s and
pathogen 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 mechanisms, ...
s are scarce) and how it in turn alters those same factors (for example, limiting access to resources by other organisms, acting as a food source for predators and a consumer of prey). "The type and number of variables comprising the dimensions of an environmental niche vary from one species to another
nd
nd
the relative importance of particular environmental variables for a species may vary according to the geographic and biotic contexts". See also Chapter 2: Concepts of niches, pp. 7 ''ff'' A Grinnellian niche is determined by the
habitat Ibex in an alpine habitat In ecology, 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. A species habitat c ...

habitat
in which a species lives and its accompanying behavioral adaptations. An Eltonian niche emphasizes that a species not only grows in and responds to an environment, it may also change the environment and its behavior as it grows. The Hutchinsonian niche uses mathematics and statistics to try to explain how species coexist within a given community. The concept of ecological niche is central to ecological
biogeography Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species and ecosystems in geography, geographic space and through evolutionary history of life, geological time. Organisms and biological community (ecology), communities often vary in a regular f ...

biogeography
, which focuses on spatial patterns of ecological communities.Viewable on line
via Amazon's 'look-inside' feature.
"Species distributions and their dynamics over time result from properties of the species, environmental variation..., and interactions between the two—in particular the abilities of some species, especially our own, to modify their environments and alter the range dynamics of many other species."
Viewable on line
via Amazon's 'look-inside' feature.
Alteration of an ecological niche by its inhabitants is the topic of
niche construction Niche construction is the process by which an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Life#Biology, properties of life. It is ...
. The majority of species exist in a standard ecological niche, sharing behaviors, adaptations, and functional traits similar to the other closely related species within the same broad
taxonomic 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 specific classification scheme. Originally used only about biological ...
class, but there are exceptions. A premier example of a non-standard niche filling species is the flightless, ground-dwelling
kiwi KIWI (102.9 FM, "Radio Lobo") is a commercial radio station , Sweden , Norway Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio signal, audio (sound), sometimes with related metadata, by radio waves intended to reach a wide audience. In terrestria ...
bird of New Zealand, which feeds on worms and other ground creatures, and lives its life in a mammal-like niche.
Island biogeographyInsular biogeography or island biogeography is a field within biogeography Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species and ecosystems in geography, geographic space and through evolutionary history of life, geological time. Organisms ...
can help explain island species and associated unfilled niches.


Grinnellian niche

The ecological meaning of niche comes from the meaning of niche as a recess in a wall for a statue, which itself is probably derived from the
Middle French Middle French (french: moyen français) is a historical division of the French language French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured ...
word ''nicher'', meaning ''to nest''. The term was coined by the naturalist
Roswell Hill Johnson Roswell Hill Johnson (1877–1967) was an American eugenics professor in the early twentieth century. Born in Buffalo, New York in 1877 and educated at Brown University, Harvard, and the University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin–Madison, J ...
but
Joseph Grinnell Joseph Grinnell (February 27, 1877 – May 29, 1939) was an American field biologist and zoologist. He made extensive studies of the fauna of California, and is credited with introducing a method of recording precise field observations known as th ...
was probably the first to use it in a research program in 1917, in his paper "The niche relationships of the California Thrasher". The Grinnellian niche concept embodies the idea that the niche of a species is determined by the
habitat Ibex in an alpine habitat In ecology, 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. A species habitat c ...

habitat
in which it lives and its accompanying behavioral adaptations. In other words, the niche is the sum of the habitat requirements and behaviors that allow a species to persist and produce offspring. For example, the behavior of the
California thrasher The California thrasher (''Toxostoma redivivum'') is a large thrasher found primarily in chaparral habitat in California and Baja California. Similar to the crissal thrasher, crissal and Le Conte's thrashers in habit, the California thrasher is ...
is consistent with the
chaparral Chaparral ( ) is a shrubland Shrubland, scrubland, scrub, brush, or bush is a plant community characterized by vegetation dominance (ecology), dominated by shrubs, often also including grasses, Herbaceous plant, herbs, and geophytes. Shrubland ...

chaparral
habitat it lives in—it breeds and feeds in the underbrush and escapes from its predators by shuffling from underbrush to underbrush. Its 'niche' is defined by the felicitous complementing of the thrasher's behavior and physical traits (camouflaging color, short wings, strong legs) with this habitat. Grinnellian niches can be defined by non-interactive (abiotic) variables and environmental conditions on broad scales. Variables of interest in this niche class include average temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, and terrain aspect which have become increasingly accessible across spatial scales. Most literature has focused on Ginnellian niche constructs, often from a climatic perspective, to explain distribution and abundance. Current predictions on species responses to climate change strongly rely on projecting altered environmental conditions on species distributions. However, it is increasingly acknowledged that climate change also influences species interactions and an Eltonian perspective may be advantageous in explaining these processes. This perspective of niche allows for the existence of both ecological equivalents and empty niches. An ecological equivalent to an organism is an organism from a different taxonomic group exhibiting similar adaptations in a similar habitat, an example being the different
succulents ''. In botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes ...
found in American and African deserts,
cactus A cactus (plural cacti, cactuses, or less commonly, cactus) is a member of the plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light en ...

cactus
and
euphorbia ''Euphorbia'' is a very large and diverse genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classification#ICTV ...

euphorbia
, respectively. As another example, the
anole Dactyloidae are a family of lizards commonly known as anoles () and native to warmer parts of the Americas, ranging from southeastern United States to Paraguay. Instead of treating it as a family, some authorities prefer to treat it as a subfami ...

anole
lizards of the
Greater Antilles The Greater Antilles ( es, Grandes Antillas or Antillas Mayores; french: Grandes Antilles ht, Gwo Zantiy jam, Grieta hAntiliiz) is a grouping of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea, including Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the ...

Greater Antilles
are a rare example of
convergent evolution Convergent evolution is the independent evolution Evolution is change in the heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their offspring; eithe ...
,
adaptive radiation In evolutionary biology, adaptive radiation is a process in which organisms diversify rapidly from an ancestral species into a multitude of new forms, particularly when a change in the environment makes new resources available, alters biotic inte ...
, and the existence of ecological equivalents: the anole lizards evolved in similar
microhabitats 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. Topics of interest include ...
independently of each other and resulted in the same
ecomorphEcomorphology or ecological morphology is the study of the relationship between the ecological role of an individual and its morphological adaptations. The term "morphological" here is in the anatomical Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection' ...
s across all four islands.


Eltonian niche

In 1927
Charles Sutherland Elton Charles Sutherland Elton (29 March 1900 – 1 May 1991) was an English zoologist Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is usually regarded as nonstandard, though it is not uncommon. is the branch of biology that studies the Animal, anima ...
, a
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...

British
ecologist 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 biolo ...
, defined a niche as follows: "The 'niche' of an animal means its place in the biotic environment, ''its relations to food and enemies''." Elton classified niches according to
foraging Foraging is searching for wild food resources. It affects an animal's fitness because it plays an important role in an animal's ability to survive and reproduce. Foraging theory is a branch of behavioral ecology Behavioral ecology, also spel ...
activities ("food habits"): "Elton focused on the niche of a species as its functional role within the food chain and its impact upon the environment" Conceptually, the Eltonian niche introduces the idea of a species' ''response'' ''to'' and ''effect on'' the environment. Unlike other niche concepts, it emphasizes that a species not only grows in and responds to an environment based on available resources, predators, and climatic conditions, but also changes the availability and behavior of those factors as it grows. In an extreme example,
beaver Beavers are large, semiaquatic In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interaction ...

beaver
s require certain resources in order to survive and reproduce, but also construct dams that alter water flow in the river where the beaver lives. Thus, the beaver affects the biotic and abiotic conditions of other species that live in and near the watershed. In a more subtle case, competitors that consume resources at different rates can lead to cycles in resource density that differ between species. Not only do species grow differently with respect to resource density, but their own population growth can affect resource density over time. Eltonian niches focus on biotic interactions and consumer–resource dynamics (biotic variables) on local scales. Because of the narrow extent of focus, data sets characterizing Eltonian niches typically are in the form of detailed of specific individual phenomena, as the dynamics of this class of niche are difficult to measure at a broad geographic scale. However, the Eltonian niche may be useful in the explanation of a species' endurance of global change. Because adjustments in biotic interactions inevitably change abiotic factors, Eltonian niches can be useful in describing the overall response of a species to new environments.


Hutchinsonian niche

The Hutchinsonian niche is an " n-dimensional hypervolume", where the dimensions are environmental conditions and
resources A resource is a source or supply from which a benefit is produced and that has some utility. Resources can broadly be classified upon their availability — they are classified into renewable and non-renewable resources. They can also be classif ...
, that define the requirements of an individual or a species to practice its way of life, more particularly, for its population to persist. The "hypervolume" defines the multi-dimensional space of resources (e.g., light, nutrients, structure, etc.) available to (and specifically used by) organisms, and "all species other than those under consideration are regarded as part of the coordinate system." The niche concept was popularized by the zoologist G. Evelyn Hutchinson in 1957. Hutchinson inquired into the question of why there are so many types of organisms in any one habitat. His work inspired many others to develop models to explain how many and how similar coexisting species could be within a given community, and led to the concepts of 'niche breadth' (the variety of resources or habitats used by a given species), 'niche partitioning' (resource differentiation by coexisting species), and 'niche overlap' (overlap of resource use by different species). Statistics were introduced into the Hutchinson niche by
Robert MacArthur Robert Helmer MacArthur (April 7, 1930 – November 1, 1972) was a Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadi ...
and
Richard Levins Richard "Dick" Levins (June 1, 1930 – January 19, 2016) was an ex-tropical farmer turned ecologist, a population geneticist, biomathematician, mathematical ecologist, and philosopher of science who researched genetic diversity, diversity in huma ...
using the 'resource-utilization' niche employing histograms to describe the 'frequency of occurrence' as a function of a Hutchinson coordinate. So, for instance, a
Gaussian Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) is the eponym of all of the topics listed below. There are over 100 topics all named after this German mathematician and scientist, all in the fields of mathematics, physics, and astronomy. The English eponymous ...

Gaussian
might describe the frequency with which a species ate prey of a certain size, giving a more detailed niche description than simply specifying some median or average prey size. For such a bell-shaped distribution, the ''position'', ''width'' and ''form'' of the niche correspond to the ''mean'', ''standard deviation'' and the actual distribution itself. One advantage in using statistics is illustrated in the figure, where it is clear that for the narrower distributions (top) there is no competition for prey between the extreme left and extreme right species, while for the broader distribution (bottom), niche overlap indicates competition can occur between all species. The resource-utilization approach consists in postulating that not only competition ''can'' occur, but also that it ''does'' occur, and that overlap in resource utilization directly enables the estimation of the competition coefficients. This postulate, however, can be misguided, as it ignores the impacts that the resources of each category have on the organism and the impacts that the organism has on the resources of each category. For instance, the resource in the overlap region can be non-limiting, in which case there is no competition for this resource despite niche overlap. An organism free of interference from other species could use the full range of conditions (biotic and abiotic) and resources in which it could survive and reproduce which is called its fundamental niche. However, as a result of pressure from, and interactions with, other organisms (i.e. inter-specific competition) species are usually forced to occupy a niche that is narrower than this, and to which they are mostly highly
adapted In biology, adaptation has three related meanings. Firstly, it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits organisms to their environment, enhancing their Fitness (biology), evolutionary fitness. Secondly, it is a state reached by the popula ...

adapted
; this is termed the realized niche. Hutchinson used the idea of competition for resources as the primary mechanism driving ecology, but overemphasis upon this focus has proved to be a handicap for the niche concept. In particular, overemphasis upon a species' dependence upon resources has led to too little emphasis upon the effects of organisms on their environment, for instance, colonization and invasions. The term "adaptive zone" was coined by the paleontologist
George Gaylord Simpson George Gaylord Simpson (June 16, 1902 – October 6, 1984) was a United States, US paleontologist. Simpson was perhaps the most influential paleontologist of the twentieth century, and a major participant in the Modern synthesis (20th century), mo ...

George Gaylord Simpson
to explain how a population could jump from one niche to another that suited it, jump to an 'adaptive zone', made available by virtue of some modification, or possibly a change in the
food chain A food chain is a linear network of links in a food web A food web is the natural interconnection of food chains and a graphical representation of what-eats-what in an ecological community. Another name for food web is Consumer-resource sy ...

food chain
, that made the adaptive zone available to it without a discontinuity in its way of life because the group was 'pre-adapted' to the new ecological opportunity. Hutchinson's "niche" (a description of the ecological space occupied by a species) is subtly different from the "niche" as defined by Grinnell (an ecological role, that may or may not be actually filled by a species—see vacant niches). A niche is a very specific segment of ecospace occupied by a single species. On the presumption that no two species are identical in all respects (called Hardin's 'axiom of inequality') and the
competitive exclusion principle 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 ...
, ''some'' resource or adaptive dimension will provide a niche specific to each species. Species can however share a 'mode of life' or 'autecological strategy' which are broader definitions of ecospace. For example, Australian grasslands species, though different from those of the
Great Plains The Great Plains (french: Grandes Plaines), sometimes simply "the Plains", is a broad expanse of in . It is located west of the and east of the , much of it covered in , and . It is the southern and main part of the , which also include the ...
grasslands, exhibit similar modes of life. Once a niche is left vacant, other organisms can fill that position. For example, the niche that was left vacant by the extinction of the
tarpan The term tarpan refers to free-ranging horses of the Russian steppe from the 18th to the 20th century. It is generally unknown whether those horses represented genuine wild horses, feral domestic horses or hybrids .The last individual believed to ...

tarpan
has been filled by other animals (in particular a small horse breed, the
konik The Konik or Polish Konik, pl, konik polski, is a Polish breed A breed is a specific group of domestic animals having homogeneous appearance (phenotype), homogeneous behavior, and/or other characteristics that distinguish it from other organi ...

konik
). Also, when plants and animals are introduced into a new environment, they have the potential to occupy or invade the niche or niches of native organisms, often outcompeting the indigenous species. Introduction of non-indigenous species to non-native
habitat Ibex in an alpine habitat In ecology, 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. A species habitat c ...

habitat
s by humans often results in biological pollution by the exotic or
invasive species Kudzu, a Japanese vine species invasive in the southeast United States, growing in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia An invasive species is an introduced species, introduced organism that becomes overpopulated and negatively alters its n ...
. The mathematical representation of a species' fundamental niche in ecological space, and its subsequent projection back into geographic space, is the domain of
niche modelling Image:Predicting habitats.png, Example of simple correlative species distribution modelling using rainfall, altitude, and current species observations to create a model of possible existence for a certain species. Species distribution modelling (SDM ...
.


Niche and Geographic Range

The geographic range of a species can be viewed as a spatial reflection of its niche, along with characteristics of the geographic template and the species that influence its potential to colonize. The fundamental geographic range of a species is the area it occupies in which environmental conditions are favorable, without restriction from barriers to disperse or colonize. A species will be confined to a its realized geographic range when confronting biotic interactions or abiotic barriers that limit dispersal, a more narrow subset of its larger fundamental geographic range. An early study on ecological niches conducted by Joseph H. Connell analyzed the environmental factors that limit the range of a barnacle (''Chthamalus stellatus'') on Scotland's Isle of Cumbrae. In his experiments, Connell described the dominant features of ''C. stellatus'' niches and provided explanation for their distribution on
intertidal zone The intertidal zone, also known as the foreshore or seashore, is the area above water level Water level, also known as gauge height or stage, is the elevation of the free surface of a sea, stream, lake or reservoir relative to a specified ve ...
of the rocky coast of the Isle. Connell described the upper portion of C. stellatus's range is limited by the barnacle's ability to resist dehydration during periods of low tide. The lower portion of the range was limited by interspecific interactions, namely competition with a cohabiting barnacle species and predation by a snail. By removing the competing ''B. balanoides'', Connell showed that ''C. stellatus'' was able to extend the lower edge of its realized niche in the absence of competitive exclusion. These experiments demonstrate how biotic and abiotic factors limit the distribution of an organism.


Parameters

The different dimensions, or ''plot axes'', of a niche represent different
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 ...
and abiotic variables. These factors may include descriptions of the organism's life history,
habitat 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. ...
, trophic position (place in the
food chain A food chain is a linear network of links in a food web A food web is the natural interconnection of food chains and a graphical representation of what-eats-what in an ecological community. Another name for food web is Consumer-resource sy ...

food chain
), and geographic range. According to the
competitive exclusion principle 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 ...
, no two species can occupy the same niche in the same environment for a long time. The parameters of a realized niche are described by the
realized niche width ''Realized niche width'' is a phrase relating to 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 en ...
of that species. Some plants and animals, called specialists, need specific habitats and surroundings to survive, such as the
spotted owl The spotted owl (''Strix occidentalis'') is a species of true owl The true owls or typical owls (family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity ...

spotted owl
, which lives specifically in old growth forests. Other plants and animals, called generalists, are not as particular and can survive in a range of conditions, for example the
dandelion ''Taraxacum'' () is a large 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 al ...

dandelion
.


See also

* Ontogenetic niche shift *
Marginal distribution (biology) The geographical limits to the distribution of 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 ...
*
Fitness landscape In evolutionary biology Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology that studies the evolution, evolutionary processes (natural selection, common descent, speciation) that produced the Biodiversity, diversity of life on Earth. In the 1930s ...
*
Niche differentiation 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 at the individua ...
*
Overpopulation Overpopulation or overabundance occurs when a species' population In biology, a population is a number of all the organisms of the same group or species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classifica ...

Overpopulation
* Phylogenetic niche conservatism *
Unified neutral theory of biodiversity Unified may refer to: * The Unified, a wine symposium held in Sacramento, California, USA * ''Unified'', the official student newspaper of Canterbury Christ Church University * UNFD, an Australian record label * ''Unified'' (Sweet & Lynch album ...


References


External links


Concept of ecological nicheEnvironmental Niche – Extinction of the DinosaursNiche restriction and segregationVacant nicheLatitude-niche width hypothesis
{{DEFAULTSORT:Ecological Niche Biogeography Habitat Landscape ecology