What Is A Biotope?

A biotope seen here in Italy.
A biotope seen here in Italy.

A biotope is defined as a geographical region in which the biological environment is uniform, and the flora and fauna distribution is also uniform. The term is closely related to another term “habitat,” but the two have distinct characteristics. The word “biotope” is derived from two Greek words “bios” (meaning life) and “topos” (which means place). Ernst Haeckel, a renowned German zoologist, is credited with introducing the concept in his “General Morphology” book published in 1866. In his book, Haeckel states of an ecosystem which he named as a “biota” which was shaped by the interaction of the biosphere and environmental factors such as soil and water. However, it was another German, F. Dahl, a Berlin Zoological Museum professor, who first coined the term “biotope” in 1908 when classifying a distinct ecological system.

Characteristics Of A Biotope

Several characteristics define a biotope. One characteristic is human interaction. A biotope does not exist exclusively in a wild setting but can also exist with human interaction. Many human activities are even necessary for the development of a biotope. An example of human interaction in a biotope is an ornamental flower bed who’s planting and nurturing is done by humans and in return are pleased with the aesthetic effect brought by the flower. Another characteristic that distinguishes a biotope is artificial objects. Areas of human interaction are likely to come into contact with artificial items. Such artificial items are suitable for the regeneration of biotopes, with their arrangement and design being critical in biotope regeneration. Artificial items made of biodegradable materials such as mats made of jute or sisal help in the regeneration of their respective biotopes, particularly when they interact with the elements (sun, water, and wind). Another characteristic is that a biotope is defined in a microscale instead of a macroscale as is the case with an ecosystem. A biotope can be as small as a small aquarium or even a tiny potted plant. Therefore, the conservation of a biotope is quite achievable due to its microscopic nature. The other characteristic of biotopes is that they are an open system meaning, biotopes are rarely identified in isolated scenarios but occur in networks with different biotopes being interconnected to each other. When planning the regeneration of a biotope, the several biotopes are arranged to form a stretch.

Biotope Restoration

While the definition of biotope makes it an ecological issue, the term is also used in political and administrative contexts. The term is popularly used closely with the preservation, creation, and regeneration of natural environments.

Application In Germany

As the origin of the term “biotope,” Germany has made great strides in establishing regenerating and protecting of biotopes and acts as a model which other countries can emulate. Biotopes are recognized under German law. The “Bundesnaturschutzgesetz” is a federal law passed in 1976 which calls for the protection of biotopes and the plant and animals species living therein. Other provincial laws supplement this federal law which protects specific biotopes from harm brought by land development. “Landschaftsplan” is a provision exercised in many states in Germany which outlines the need for proper urban planning and the protection of natural landscapes and environments during urban development. Germany also requires cities to place a high priority in the establishment of recreational areas during urban development, and in so doing, protect existing biotopes in the belief that establishment of authentic natural scenery in cities makes local people to feel the need to preserve and protect the environment. Several cities in Germany place great importance in biotope establishment and its preservation. One such city is Berlin which has a green area. The administration of the city relies on what is known as the “Biotope Area Factor,” which is establishing and preservation of the green area. The “Biotope Area Factor” is a key ecological parameter in the development of Berlin’s green areas. Berlin is known for formulating goals towards the protection of its biotopes while promoting top quality urban development.

Biotope Protection In Sweden

Another European country which places great importance in the preservation of biotopes is Sweden. The country’s decision to protect the most threatened biotopes is in line with its commitment under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and to meet national environmental quality obligations established by Parliament. There are seven selected biotopes which have permanent protection from the Swedish government. These are lines of the tree, stone fences in agricultural regions, willow banks, springs and nearby wetlands in agricultural regions, stone piles in agricultural regions, small wetlands in agricultural regions, and small bushes and stands of trees found in the middle of large fields. All areas established as biotopes in Sweden are under 20 hectares in size. Sweden knows the great importance a biotope in the development of plant and animal species and therefore invests in the improvement and protection of these natural settings. The seven biotopes under permanent protection are at the greatest risk of collapse due to recent trends in land use, despite their great importance as passage routes for many species. On top of the seven biotopes under the protection of the Swedish national government, there are dozens of other biotopes which are protected by other institutions and administrations including 19 biotopes which are under the protection of the Swedish Forest Agency and about 16 which is under the protection of local country administrations and municipalities.

Red List Of Biotopes

HELCOM (the Helsinki Commission) is an institution which is tasked with the protection of marine ecosystems and biotopes in the Baltic Sea from pollution. The countries under the jurisdiction of the commission include Russia, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Poland, Sweden, and Lithuania. The institution which is also known as the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission) has a list of endangered biotopes known as the Red List of Biotopes. The biotopes on the list are those on the verge of collapse and are based on the decline in quality and quantity of a biotope. Some of the biotopes on the list include sandbanks, mudflats, muddy sediments, coastal lagoons, underwater structures formed by leaking gases, estuaries, shallow inlets, narrow inlets, bays, esker islands, small islands and shell gravel.


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