Ecosystem vs. Habitat: Examining Our Ecology

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Difference between Ecosystem and Habitat

Ecosystem and habitat are both scientific terms that relate to ecological concepts. They are often used in discussions of conservation, biodiversity and wildlife. The two terms have similar definitions, which can lead to some confusion, so it is important to understand how the two terms relate to each other and how they should be used.



The term ecosystem can be defined as a biological community of plants, animals and other living things together with the non-living or abiotic features with which they interact. Both the living parts of the system and the physical environment are part of the ecosystem. The idea of the ecosystem is based upon the belief that organisms interact with every part of their surrounding environment, including the other organisms with which they share their home.

The term habitat can be defined as the environment in which a particular type of organism lives. A particular type of animal, plant or other living creature tends to live in a particular type of habitat or environment, although some organisms can live in a range of different habitats.


An ecosystem is made up of all the living and non-living features that interact together in a particular area. These can include all of the plants and animals that live in the area, as well as other non-living factors such as the sunlight, the water and soil with which they interact. Ecosystems are sometimes compared in terms of their diversity. The more varied the components of the ecosystem are, the more diverse it is.

A habitat is the physical environment in which a particular population of an organism lives. Unlike an ecosystem, the organism itself is not a part of the habitat. An animal is part of an ecosystem, but it lives within a habitat. The habitat itself is also part of an ecosystem, although a particular ecosystem may include a number of different habitats.


Ecosystems can vary a great deal in terms of their structure, components and size. The Earth itself can be considered as a single ecosystem, but smaller ecosystems can also be identified within it. Natural ecosystems can be either terrestrial or aquatic. Ecosystems can also be artificial. Ecosystems are sometimes described in terms of the location in which they are based, so it is possible to talk about a savannah ecosystem or a rainforest ecosystem, which would be composed of all of the plants, animals, and other features in these two very different environments.

Habitats can also vary in terms of their types and scale. Larger organisms usually need larger habitats. Microhabitats are smaller habitats that often exist within a large one. For example, a rotten log could be the microhabitat of a population of insects, with the log sitting within the wider forest habitat that is home to larger animals such as foxes. The insect's habitat is the log. The fox's habitat is the forest.

Similarities and Differences

The ecological terms ecosystem and habitat refer to two different aspects of the natural world. An ecosystem is a system of animals, plants and abiotic elements that all interact with one another in different ways. A habitat is the environment that surrounds a particular living organism, such as a plant or an animal.

  • An ecosystem consists of all living and non-living features that interact together.
  • A habitat is the environment in which a population of organisms lives.
  • An animal can live in a habitat, but it is part of an ecosystem.
  • A habitat is part of an ecosystem that also includes the animals living within it.

Ecosystem and Habitat Video


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