Ecological niche

The term ecological niche was developed by Charles Elton.

  • Ecological niche may be defined as ‘the functional role and position (micro-habitat) of species in its ecosystem, including what resources it uses, how and when it uses the resources, and how it interacts with other species.
  • The ecosystem stability depends upon the diversity of the niche. The greater the niche diversity, the more is ecosystem stability because of the larger number of pathways for the flow of energy and less fluctuation of the species population.
  • Sometimes it becomes difficult for two species to inhabit the same niche. In such cases the ‘Law of Competitive Exclusion’ works, which states that no two species will occupy the same niche and compete for exactly the same resources in the same habitat for very long.
  • A niche includes: the role the species plays (e.g. A pollinator, a decomposer), the food it eats, where it lives, where it reproduces, and its interactions with other species
  • In such difficult situations, one species may adopt a few alternative paths i.e.
    • Either one species may migrate to a new niche
    • May become extinct
    • May change physiological behavior for the competition of the same resources.
  • The process of minimization of competition for resources is called ‘Resource Partition’ which can allow several species to utilize different parts of the same resource and coexist within a single habitat.
  • Dominant species occupy an extensive and broader ecological niche in comparison to less dominant species.
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