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Habitats are the natural (ecological or environment) homes of a group of plants and/or animals (including humans), or other organisms. This group of plants and animals is known as a community.
Habitats are where the inhabitants find their shelter, food sources, mates for reproducing and protective elements.
Smaller habitats can be found within larger habitats. For example, a river stone alongside the river may harbour a small community beneath it, while the river harbours a larger community. Habitats can thus be quite small as well as the larger areas catering to groups or many species of animals and/or plants. Within any habitat, the inhabitants coexist.
Habitats consist of both physical, non-living features including soil, moisture, light availability, temperature range and biotic features that include food availability and predators.
Formation of habitats
Habitats form through geological and climatic influences. After the habitat is shaped, the climate creates the suitability for a range of inhabitants. For example, rainforests, prairies, woodlands, mountains, deserts, rivers, estuaries, sub-alpine, and so forth. Every area of Earth has a habitat suited to its climate, features and water availability.
Here is a list of habitat types:
- Alpine and sub-alpine
- Forest (woods), temperate (including deciduous), rainforest, coniferous/taiga and sub-alpine
- Fresh water - glaciers, rivers, streams, lakes, etc.
- Marine (oceans, seas)
- Offshore islands and oceanic islands
- Scrub lands
- Wetlands, marshes, ponds, swamps
Changes in habitats
Changes brought about by climate shifts, reduction or increases in water availability and natural phenomenon (such as those humans term "natural hazards") can affect the suitability of a habitat to its inhabitants. If the plant and animal species is adaptable, they may be able to cope with changes; on the other hand, some species are extremely susceptible to even the slightest of habitat changes and may either have to shift or can become extinct as a result of such changes.
The usual changes in climate have been accelerated by human activities, and are increasing the rate at which certain habitats are changing, forcing many species to shift to different habitat areas. Both habitat areas high in biodiversity and low in diversity are of concern when shifts in rainfall, temperature and availability of space occur. Of especial concern are how climate change is impacting coral reefs, tropical rainforests and alpine/polar regions.
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