The position of the species that it occupies in the biogeocenosis, the complex of its connections with other species and the requirements for abiotic environmental factors is called an ecological niche. The concept of “ecological niche” should be distinguished from the concept of “habitat”. In the latter case, we are talking about the part of space where the species lives and where there are necessary abiotic conditions for its existence. The ecological niche of a species depends not only on abiotic conditions, it characterizes the whole lifestyle that a species can lead in a given community. In the figurative expression of ecologist Yu. Odum, the habitat is the address of the species, and the ecological niche is its “profession.” Distinguish between fundamental (or potential) and realized niches. A fundamental ecological niche is a set of optimal conditions under which a given species can exist and reproduce. Realized niche – conditions where the species actually occurs in a given ecosystem; it always makes up some part of the fundamental niche.
For the reproduction and long-term existence of many animal species, the differentiation of niches at different stages of ontogenesis is of great importance: caterpillars and adults of Lepidoptera, larvae and beetles of May chrysalis, tadpoles and adult frogs do not compete with each other, because they differ in habitat and enter different food chains.
Interspecific competition leads to a narrowing of the ecological niche and prevents its potentials from manifesting itself. Intraspecific competition, on the contrary, contributes to the expansion of the ecological niche. In connection with the increase in the number of species, the use of additional feed begins, the development of new habitats, the emergence of new biocenotic relationships.
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