[permaculture] Biotope vs. "ecological niche"

Lawrence F. London, Jr. venaurafarm at bellsouth.net
Sat Oct 24 22:52:01 EDT 2009

When creating a permaculture design for a site how important would it be 
to identify and document the ecology of the site in relation to the 
ecology of the region in which it is located as well as completing 
various inventories, plant, microbe, water, drainage,
soil, animal, slopes, geological features, microclimates, weather 
patterns, etc.? It would seem to be easy to create the inventories but
it would also be important to tie every element together, identifying 
its role in the local ecosystem, i.e. what belongs there and, with an 
eye toward adding species, what doesn't, like truly invasive, 
ecologically damaging species. Combining these major elements for the 
"good of the whole" in an ecological sense would make sense. Important 
considerations would be nutrient and water cycling within the site 
itself, stacked functions, earthworks and landforms even "terraforming"
(I did this to some degree with a loader and tractor - altering the 
grade on several large land areas, pond construction and berm and swale 
construction using fill from the pond excavation and more - it was a 
success almost without flaw and provided me with enhanced sites for 
raised bed market gardens - ).

You can have on site.......
1) human habitation
2) orchard, fruit, berry and nut
3) herb (complementary, biocontrol, habitat, culinary and medicinal)
4) fiber, forage, biomass, fuel, biofuel
5) vegetables
6) plantings for microclimates, hedgerow, windrow, shade, windbreaks
7) habitat and wildlife food plantings
8) water and nutritional catchment plantings
.....but it would seem ideal to locate the above major elements in 
relation to one another in a way that their survival needs will mesh and 
be met within an evolving common ecology and in areas where they will 
mesh with the natural, preexisting ecology of the site.

Biotope vs. "ecological niche"

How are they similar or different?

Ecological niche
 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In ecology, a niche (pronounced /?ni??/ or /?n?t?/)[1] is a term 
describing the relational position of a species or population in its 
ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another 
ecological niche from one that travels in a different school if the 
members of these schools utilize significantly different food resources 
and foraging methods.[1] A shorthand definition of niche is how an 
organism makes a living. The ecological niche describes how an organism 
or population responds to the distribution of resources and competitors 
(e.g., by growing when resources are abundant, and when predators, 
parasites and pathogens are scarce) and how it in turn alters those same 
factors (e.g., limiting access to resources by other organisms, acting 
as a food source for predators and a consumer of prey).[2]

"Biotope is an area of uniform environmental conditions providing a 
living place for a specific assemblage of plants and animals. Biotope is 
almost synonymous with the term habitat, but while the subject of a 
habitat is a species or a population, the subject of a biotope is a 
biological community.[1]"  ----->
(Biological Community)
 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A biocoenosis (alternatively, biocoenose or biocenose ), termed by Karl 
Möbius in 1877, describes all the interacting organisms living together 
in a specific habitat (or biotope). Biotic community , biological 
community, and ecological community are more common synonyms of 
biocenosis, all of which represent the same concepts. Three related 
descriptors are zoocoenosis for the faunal community, phytocoenosis for 
the floral community and microbiocoenosis for the microbial community 
within an ecosystem.[1] The extent or geographical area of a biocenose 
is limited only by the requirement of a more or less uniform species 

An ecosystem, as originally defined by Tansley (1935), is a biotic 
community (or biocoenosis) along with its physical environment (or 
biotope as defined by many known ecologists).

The importance of the biocoenosis concept in ecology is its emphasis on 
the interrelationships among species in a geographical area. These 
interactions are as important as the physical factors to which each 
species is adapted and responding. In a very real sense, it is the 
specific biological community or biocoenosis that is adapted to 
conditions that prevail in a given place.

Biotic communities may be of varying sizes, and larger ones may contain 
smaller ones. The interactions between species are especially evident in 
food or feeding relationships. Therefore, a practical method of 
delineating biotic communities is to map the food network to identify 
which species feed upon which others and then determine the system 
boundary as the one that can be drawn through the fewest consumption 
links relative to the number of species within the boundary.

I guess this answers my question; an ecological niche is simply a 
defined ecosystem:

 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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The High Peaks Wilderness Area in the 6,000,000-acre (2,400,000 ha) 
Adirondack Park is an example of a diverse ecosystem.

An ecosystem is a system of interdependent organisms which share the 
same habitat, in an area functioning together with all of the physical 
(abiotic) factors of the environment. Ecosystems can be permanent or 
temporary. Ecosystems usually form a number of food webs. [1]

The term ecosystem was coined in 1930 by Roy Clapham to mean the 
combined physical and biological components of an environment. British 
ecologist Arthur Tansley later refined the term, describing it as "The 
whole system,… including not only the organism-complex, but also the 
whole complex of physical factors forming what we call the 
environment".[2] Tansley regarded ecosystems not simply as natural 
units, but as mental isolates.[2] Tansley later[3] defined the spatial 
extent of ecosystems using the term ecotope.

Central to the ecosystem concept is the idea that living organisms 
interact with every other element in their local environment. Eugene 
Odum, a founder of ecology, stated: "Any unit that includes all of the 
organisms (ie: the "community") in a given area interacting with the 
physical environment so that a flow of energy leads to clearly defined 
trophic structure, biotic diversity, and material cycles (ie: exchange 
of materials between living and nonliving parts) within the system is an 
ecosystem."[4] The human ecosystem concept is then grounded in the 
deconstruction of the human/nature dichotomy and the premise that all 
species are ecologically integrated with each other, as well as with the 
abiotic constituents of their biotope.

I began reading at the entry for Biome, which I was curious about, in 
Wikipedia - this led to needing definitions for a number of terms 
referenced in the article.

 From Wikipedia
Terrestrial biomes
	Taiga/boreal forests
	Montane grasslands and shrublands
	Temperate coniferous forests
	Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests
	Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
	Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub
	Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
	Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests
	Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands
	Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands
	Deserts and xeric shrublands
	Flooded grasslands and savannas
Aquatic biomes
	Littoral/intertidal zone
	Mangrove forests
	Kelp forest
	Coral reef
	Neritic zone
	Continental shelf
	Pelagic zone
	Benthic zone
	Hydrothermal vents
	Cold seeps
	Pack ice
Other biomes
	Endolithic zone

Biome are climatically and geographically defined areas of ecologically 
similar climatic conditions such as communities of plants, animals, and 
soil organisms,[1] and are often referred to as ecosystems. Biomes are 
defined by factors such as plant structures (such as trees, shrubs, and 
grasses), leaf types (such as broadleaf and needleleaf), plant spacing 
(forest, woodland, savanna), and climate. Unlike ecozones, biomes are 
not defined by genetic, taxonomic, or historical similarities. Biomes 
are often identified with particular patterns of ecological succession 
and climax vegetation (quasi-equilibrium state of the local ecosystem). 
An ecosystem has many biotopes and a biome is a major habitat type. A 
major habitat type, however, is a compromise, as it has an intrinsic 

The biodiversity characteristic of each biome, especially the diversity 
of fauna and subdominant plant forms, is a function of abiotic factors 
and the biomass productivity of the dominant vegetation. In terrestrial 
biomes, species diversity tends to correlate positively with net primary 
productivity, moisture availability, and temperature.[2]

Ecoregions are grouped into both biomes and ecozones.

A fundamental classification of biomes is into:

    1. Terrestrial (land) biomes
    2. Freshwater biomes
    3. Marine biomes

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