Habitats for Kids | Kids learn about Tundra Desert Grasslands Forests and More | Science for Kids
What are habitats? Kids will learn about the different habitats around the world. Tundra, Grasslands, Forests, and Water habitats are explored. StandardsBased. Supports NGSS.
Why are habitats important? This program takes viewers around the world to explore the tundra, desert, grasslands, forests, and waterways of the world, and learn about the plants and animals that live there. StandardsBased. Supports NGSS.
In ecology, a habitat is the type of natural environment in which a particular species of organism lives. It is characterized by both physical and biological features. A species' habitat is those places where it can find food, shelter, protection, and mates for reproduction.
The physical factors are for example soil, moisture, range of temperature, and light intensity as well as biotic factors such as the availability of food and the presence or absence of predators. Every organism has certain habitat needs for the conditions in which it will thrive, but some are tolerant of wide variations while others are very specific in their requirements. A habitat is not necessarily a geographical area, it can be the interior of a stem, a rotten log, a rock or a clump of moss, and for a parasitic organism, it is the body of its host, part of the host's body such as the digestive tract, or a single cell within the host's body.
Habitat types include polar, temperate, subtropical, and tropical. The terrestrial vegetation type may be forest, steppe, grassland, semiarid, or desert. Freshwater habitats include marshes, streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds, and marine habitats include salt marshes, the coast, the intertidal zone, estuaries, reefs, bays, the open sea, the sea bed, deep water, and submarine vents.
Habitats change over time. This may be due to a violent event such as the eruption of a volcano, an earthquake, a tsunami, a wildfire or a change in oceanic currents; or the change may be more gradual over millennia with alterations in the climate, as ice sheets and glaciers advance and retreat, and as different weather patterns bring changes of precipitation and solar radiation. Other changes come as a direct result of human activities; deforestation, the plowing of ancient grasslands, the diversion and damming of rivers, the draining of marshland and the dredging of the seabed. The introduction of alien species can have a devastating effect on native wildlife, through increased predation, through competition for resources or through the introduction of pests and diseases to which the native species have no immunity.
The chief environmental factors affecting the distribution of living organisms are temperature, humidity, climate, soil type and light intensity, and the presence or absence of all the requirements that the organism needs to sustain it. Generally speaking, animal communities are reliant on specific types of plant communities.
Some plants and animals are generalists, and their habitat requirements are met in a wide range of locations. The small white butterfly (Pieris rapae) for example is found on all the continents of the world apart from Antarctica. Its larvae feed on a wide range of Brassicas and various other plant species, and it thrives in any open location with diverse plant associations. The large blue butterfly is much more specific in its requirements; it is found only in chalk grassland areas, its larvae feed on Thymus species and because of complex lifecycle requirements it inhabits only areas in which Myrmica ants live.
Disturbance is important in the creation of biodiverse habitats. In the absence of disturbance, a climax vegetation cover develops that prevents the establishment of other species. Wildflower meadows are sometimes created by conservationists but most of the flowering plants used are either annuals or biennials and disappear after a few years in the absence of patches of bare ground on which their seedlings can grow. Lightning strikes and toppled trees in tropical forests allow species richness to be maintained as pioneering species move in to fill the gaps created. Similarly coastal habitats can become dominated by kelp until the seabed is disturbed by a storm and the algae swept away, or shifting sediment exposes new areas for colonization. Another cause of disturbance is when an area may be overwhelmed by an invasive introduced species which is not kept under control by natural enemies in its new habitat.