In order to discuss a microhabitat, it is important to understand what a habitat is first.
A habitat can be described as an area in the environment that acts as a home for a particular species of plant or animal. For an ecological position to be described as a habitat, it must be able to meet the following conditions: it should provide food, mates for reproduction, shelter, and protection to the species in question.
Components of a Habitat
Habitats are made up of physical factors and biotic factors. The physical environmental factors that differentiate habitats include soil, temperature, light variations, and levels of moisture. The biotic influences include the access to food and lack of or presence of predators.
While some organisms have very specific conditions in which they can thrive in, others have been found to be able to survive in various environmental conditions.
Types of Habitats
There are different types of habitats:
Terrestrial habitats include any ecological zones with forests, generally including rainforests, deserts, and grasslands. They are further broken down into the plant structures (like trees and grasses), the type of leaves e.g. wide or needle leaves, and the plant spacing like savannah or woodland.
Freshwater habitats are made up of rivers, lakes, bogs, and ponds. Of the 3% of Earth’s water that is fresh, only 0.014% is on the surface in the form of rivers, swamps, and lakes.
Marine habitats is the environment of the oceans. There is a deficiency of information on marine life as the depths of the ocean have not been extensively explored and studied.
The Altering and Volatile Nature of Habitats
Habitats change over time, sometimes only conditions or the whole living environment. The changes are brought about by natural factors such as earthquakes, volcanic explosions or manmade events like wild fire, cutting of trees and draining of marshlands. These changes might bring along increased predation, struggle for resources and introduction of pests and diseases.
What Is A Microhabitat?
A microhabitat is a smaller part of the habitat that possesses specific physical conditions that are conducive for an organism. These microhabitats vary in the exposure to light, temperature, humidity, and air circulation, among other factors.
An example of such variations can be viewed in the difference in lichens that grow on top of a boulder and those that grow underneath the rock. For lichens, a small movement of 2cm could mean a change in its physical conditions which could threaten its survival.
There are different types of microhabitats in a wood, namely, coniferous forest, open woodland, broad-leafed forest, clearings and glades, smooth barks, rotten wood, damaged barks, canopy, and shrub layer, among many other variations. The more diversified the structure of a tree, the more microhabitats are present in that tree. The same species of a tree may provide different microhabitats to living thing due to the difference in features such as the presence of streams, tracks, slopes, cleared and felled areas among other features.
The microhabitat of a parasitic organism is the specific part of the plant whether inside or outside that the organism lives. Some parasites evolve due to life cycle changes thus requiring different host species and conditions to survive at different stages. Such an example is the flatworm which is found in saline waters in the southeastern US, it is then hosted by a snail, which is followed by the glass shrimp. The last microhabitat is a fowl or mammal that eats the shrimp.