Types of Niche - Environment Notes - Thought Chakra

Types of Niche – UPSC Notes – Environment

A species’ distinctive functional role or position in an ecosystem is termed as a Niche. It encompasses a roster of all the biological, physical, and chemical components essential for a species to survive, maintain health, and reproduce.

Niche – Concept

  • The term “niche” in ecology defines an organism’s role in a group.
  • A species’ niche includes physical and environmental characteristics it demands (e.g., temperature, topography) and its interactions with other species (e.g., predation, competition).
  • A species’ niche is unique, with no two species having identical niches.
  • In species conservation, understanding and preserving the niche is crucial.
  • Protecting a species in its natural habitat requires learning about its niche requirements and ensuring all criteria are met.

Types of Niche

Habitat Niche:

  • Habitat refers to a physical location.
  • Niche pertains to a species’ connection with ecosystem components.
  • Habitat Niche Description:
    • Habitat niche is the specific place where a species resides.
    • Example: Anole lizards in Puerto Rico serve as an illustration.
  • Natural Selection and Evolution:
    • Natural selection has led to the evolution of species exploiting various resources in this category.
  • Anole Lizard Species:
    • The diagram illustrates different anole lizard species.
    • Each species has its preferred habitat, characterized by elements such as plant type, height (trees, bushes, cacti), sunlight, wetness, etc.

Food Niche

  • Food Niche:
    • An organism’s Food Niche defines its position in the biological environment and its interactions with food and predators.
  • Components of Food Niche:
    • The food niche includes what an organism consumes or decomposes and its interactions with species it competes with.
  • Example:
    • The flightless dung beetle occupies a distinct ecological niche based on its food habits.
    • It feeds on animal droppings and stores them as dung balls in burrows.
    • Eggs are placed inside the dung ball, ensuring larvae have ready food resources.
    • The dung beetle’s feeding activity contributes to soil aeration and nutrient reintroduction.
  • Ecological Studies:
    • Ecologists have long studied the structure of the food niche and the position of species within it.

Reproductive Niche

  • Reproductive Niche:
    • The Reproductive Niche involves how and when an organism reproduces.
    • Bykova (2012) introduced the term to characterize the overlap of offspring production, dispersal, and germination.
  • Influencing Factors:
    • Diet, age, sperm competition, and hormonal pathways contribute to defining the habitat of a reproducing population.
  • Example:
    • Non-biting mosquitoes (Chironomus riparius and C. piger) exhibit different reproductive behaviors despite their close relationship, similar ecology, and significant morphological similarity.

Physical and Chemical Niche

  • Physical & Chemical Niche:
    • The physical and chemical niche encompasses factors like temperature, landform, land slope, humidity, and others.
  • Example:
    • Birds have adapted to a wide range of niches.
    • Kirtland’s Warblers (Setophaga kirtlandii) are specifically tied to young jack pine (Pinus banksiana) forests in northern Lower Michigan, USA, during the nesting season.

Importance of Ecological Niches

  • Ecological Niches Significance:
    • Ecological niches are crucial for species as they enable them to function without intense competition for scarce resources.
  • Importance Recognition:
    • The true value of biological niches in an ecosystem often becomes apparent only when the species occupying them disappears.
  • Example:
    • The absence of bees is linked to reduced fruit harvests in greenhouses, highlighting the vital role of pollination.
  • Consequence of Population Decline:
    • A significant decline in bee populations could pose challenges in cultivating enough food in the future.


  • Niche diversity plays a crucial role in determining the stability of an ecosystem.
  • More paths for energy transfer and less fluctuation in species population contribute to increased stability.
  • A higher level of niche diversity correlates with a more stable ecosystem.

FAQs on Types of Niche

Q1: Can two species occupy the same niche?

A: While it’s theoretically possible, in reality, two species seldom occupy the exact same niche in an ecosystem. When there is significant overlap, competition for resources often arises, leading to adaptations or evolutionary changes to reduce direct competition.

Q2: What is a deer’s niche?

A: A deer’s niche encompasses its role in the ecosystem, including its interactions with other species and its dependence on environmental factors. This may involve aspects such as preferred habitats, diet, reproductive behaviors, and interactions with predators and competitors.

Q3: What is a wolf’s niche?

A: The niche of a wolf includes various factors such as its place in the food chain, preferred habitat, hunting behaviors, and interactions with other species. Wolves are often top predators, and their niche involves regulating prey populations, influencing the ecosystem structure, and contributing to overall biodiversity.

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