Why are ecological niches important?

Lovely illustration of the ecological niche concept here.

A Feathered Reptile

f5-medium An example of a niche model. Horseshoe Crab eggs require a convergence of environmental conditions in which to incubate (source: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.2307/1541193).

Last week, I talked about the decline in aerial insectivores, which includes bats, nighthawks, swifts and swallows. Many of these animals provide great benefit in controlling insect populations around cropland and residential areas.

But who cares? If we lose one of these animals, the others will fill in the gap, right? Maybe. Let’s talk about ecological niches.

What’s a niche? I like this definition below (even though it’s from a paid study aid web site, and I don’t endorse them).

“An ecological niche is the role and position a species has in its environment; how it meets its needs for food and shelter, how it survives, and how it reproduces. A species’ nicheincludes all of its interactions with the biotic and abiotic factors of its environment.”


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