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Ecosystem Vs. Habitat – 7 Key Differences

The differences between an ecosystem and a habitat can be confusing. While they are related, they are not quite the same thing. An ecosystem is a community of different species of living organisms and their physical environment. In other words, it’s the interaction between plants, animals, and their surroundings. A habitat is the place where an organism lives. It provides the necessary things that the organism needs to survive, such as food and shelter. Now that you know the primary difference, let’s further explore ecosystem vs. habitat in a little more detail.


Ecosystem vs. Habitat – 7 Key Differences

An ecosystem is a system of different living organisms interacting with one another and their physical environment. Habitats can be found inside of ecosystems and give home to specific living organisms. Read on to learn more about ecosystem vs habitat.

1.  Habitats Are Contained Within Ecosystems

Camels walking in the desert
Camels walking in the desert

A habitat is a place where an animal or plant lives. The term can refer to an area as small as a tree hollow or as large as a desert. A habitat is not the same as an ecosystem.

An ecosystem is made up of all the living and non-living things in an area and how they interact with each other. The word “biome” is sometimes used to describe a large ecosystem, such as a forest or a grassland.

For example, a tree’s habitat would be inside of a forest ecosystem. The tree needs sunlight, water, and nutrients from the soil to survive; these things are provided by the ecosystem.

2. There Are Many Habitats That Make Up An Ecosystem

American bullfrog on pond
American bullfrog on pond | Image by Sunny Zhang from Pixabay

A habitat is determined by many factors, including temperature, rainfall, soil type and the availability of food and shelter. There are many different types of ecosystems on Earth, each with its own unique combination of habitats.

For example, in a forest ecosystem there a many habitats for different animals. The branches and leaves of trees provide food and shelter for birds so that’s their habitat.

The forest floor with decaying leaves provides a habitat for insects and fungus. A puddle of water in a forest might be the habitat for frogs.

Each one of these different habitats work together to support the forest ecosystem as a whole. None of the organisms are able to survive outside of their respective habitats.

3. Habitat Is The Place And Environment That Organisms Live

The term “habitat” refers to the place or environment where an organism lives. A habitat is made up of both biotic and abiotic factors, which provide the resources an organism needs to survive and reproduce.

Biotic factors include all the living things in an organism’s environment, such as plants, animals, and other organisms. These biotic factors interact with each other and with the abiotic (non-living) factors of the environment to create a unique habitat.

If a habitat changes too much, it can no longer support the same kinds of organisms. For example, if a forest is clear-cut for lumber, it may no longer be able to support large trees or wildlife that need dense foliage.

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When habitats are destroyed or altered too much, the species that live there may become endangered or even extinct. Habitat balance is key for many species survival.

4. Ecosystem Is The Natural Systems That Work Together To Support A Variety Of Organisms

Grassland landscape
Grassland landscape | image by Justin Meissen via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Ecosystems are the natural systems that work together to support a variety of organisms. The term can refer to different areas in the world, such as an ocean, a forest, or even your backyard.

Ecosystems have several components. The physical environment, like the soil, air, water, and sunlight. The plants and animals that live there. Each ecosystem has a unique mix of plant and animal species.

A food web is the flow of energy in an ecosystem through organisms who eat and are eaten by others. Food webs show how energy moves through an ecosystem. They can be simple or complex, depending on the number of organisms involved.

5. Habitats Are Smaller Than Ecosystems

Habitats can be small or large, but they are always smaller than ecosystems. For example, a pond is a small ecosystem that contains many different habitats.

The water, the mud at the bottom, the rocks along the edge, and the plants growing around the perimeter are all smaller habitats and home to different organisms.

A habitat must provide food, water, shelter, and space for an organism to survive. The type of habitat an organism lives in depends on its needs.  Some animals are able to live in many different types of habitats, while others are limited to just one or two.

Humans have created many artificial habitats, such as nature preserves and farms. These habitats provide food and shelter for people and other organisms, such as pets and farm animals.

6. Examples of Different Ecosystems

Lake with conifers
Lake with conifers | Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Ecosystems can be classified in many different ways. One way to classify ecosystems is by their size. The largest ecosystem is the biosphere, which includes all of Earth’s living and non-living things.

Biomes are ecosystems that cover large areas of land or water. They can be further divided into smaller ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, deserts, and wetlands.

Another way to classify ecosystems is by their abiotic factors. Abiotic factors are the non-living parts of an ecosystem. They include things like sunlight, temperature, water, and soil.

We can also divide ecosystems into two categories: aquatic and terrestrial. Aquatic ecosystems are those that contain water, such as oceans, lakes, and rivers. Terrestrial ecosystems are those that occur on land, such as forests and grasslands.

7. Examples of Different Habitats

Raised bed greenhouse
Raised bed greenhouse | Image by Uwe Driesel from Pixabay

The term can refer to both natural habitats, such as forests, deserts, and oceans, as well as artificial habitats, such as zoos and greenhouses. Even a terrarium for a pet bearded dragon is a habitat.

Different habitats support different types of plants and animals. For example, a forest habitat might support trees, shrubs, and woodland creatures like squirrels and deer, while a desert habitat might support cacti, lizards, and snakes.

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A habitat can also include extreme conditions. For example, there are fish that live in near freezing waters in Antarctica. They have adapted to survive in this kind of habitat without freezing to death.