[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
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?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In ecology, a niche (pronounced /?ni??/ or /?n?t?/) 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. 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).
"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." ----->
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. 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
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. 
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". Tansley regarded ecosystems not simply as natural
units, but as mental isolates. Tansley later 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." 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.
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
Biome are climatically and geographically defined areas of ecologically
similar climatic conditions such as communities of plants, animals, and
soil organisms, 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.
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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