What is a Цcological niche? Definition and example:
The concept of Ecological niche describes the role of a species in a Цcosystem. Often, for simplicity, the "profession" of a species is spoken of, which it exploits in its habitat. The term thus refers to the functional factors between the species and its environment, which is why it should not be confused with the biotope. While a biotope describes only one habitat without any living beings, the ecological niche includes an interacting complex of biotic and abiotic environmental factors.
Fundamental niche and real niche
In Цcology, one can distinguish between the fundamental and the real niche based on the factor of the potency of a species:
Fundamental Ecological Niche:
This is equivalent to the physiological potency, ie the optimal habitat of the respective species without interspecific competition. The fundamental niche, however, is more of a theoretical construct, because in a Цcosystem there is never a 100% unrivaled species. Therefore, the fundamental ecological niche can only be determined under isolated laboratory conditions.
Realized ecological niche:
Corresponds to the ecological potency of the species, ie the actual conditions in nature, including all biotic and abiotic environmental factors. The realm is always smaller in size than the fundamental niche, because under real competitive conditions, the potency of a species inevitably suffers. In natural ecosystems, only realized ecological niches are found.
Often, in connection with Ncological niches, the notion of ecological position, An ecological post is nothing more than the sum of all the environmental factors that apply to it. Ecological posts can be occupied by animal and plant species (inclusion). An example makes it clear: in the Wadden Sea ecosystem there are snails (about 2 cm below the surface), shells (about 5 cm below the surface) and worms (about 10 cm below the surface). All three are considered as food for birds. This results in three ecological positions:
(1) Habitat Wadden Sea + snails as food + short beak is needed
(2) habitat Wadden Sea + mussels as food + medium-long beak is needed
(3) Habitat Wadden Sea + Worms as food + long beak is needed
As soon as an ecological post is occupied by the nesting of a bird, it is called the ecological niche. Each of these three posts can only be filled by a maximum of one species of bird because the competition exclusion principle applies. If more than one species competes for a certain ecological niche, one of the two species will prevail in the long term and outweigh the other species. The defeated species is either expelled from the area or dies, or it manages to occupy another ecological niche in which it is the most competitive species (competition avoidance by inclusion). For example, a bird species that is inferior to the more competitive species for the ecological niche (1) could take the ecological position (2), provided that it is still free and the bird has the appropriate variability to occupy the post.
Ecological niches are far more complex than shown in this example. There are many more factors involved: day / night, breeding behavior, courtship time, temperature, weather, predators, food supply, parasites and much more.