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The four Major Habitats

Terrestrial
Terrestrial habitats are ones that are found on land, like forests, grasslands, deserts, shorelines,
and wetlands. Terrestrial habitats also include man made habitats, like farms, towns, and cities,
and habitats that are under the earth, like caves and mines. The kinds of plants that grow in a
terrestrial habitat, and the kinds of animals that can live there, are most influenced by the
amount of moisture that is in the soil or that comes down as rain or snow, how cold the area
can be during winter, how many nutrients are available in the soil, and whether or not the land
is flooded with water.

Terrestrial habitat may refer to:

 Terrestrial animal, animals that live


predominantly or entirely on land .
 Terrestrial plant, plants that live
predominantly or entirely on land .
 Terrestrial ecology (also known as soil
ecology), the study of the interactions among
soil organisms, and between biotic and
abiotic aspects of the soil environment.
 Terrestrial ecoregion, land ecoregions, as
distinct from freshwater and marine
ecoregions.
 Terrestrial ecosystem, an ecosystem found
only on landforms.
 Terrestrial locomotion, movement among
animals adapted from aquatic to terrestrial
environments.
 Terrestrial planet, a planet that is composed
primarily of silicate rocks or metals.

FRESHWATER
This freshwater habitat is a busy place!
Rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, and streams are all
freshwater habitats. So are wetlands like swamps,
which have woody plants and trees; and marshes,
which have no trees but lots of grasses and reeds.
Freshwater accounts for only three percent of the
world’s water. (The rest is saltwater.) But despite that
tiny amount, freshwater habitats are homes for more
than 100,000 species of plants and animals.
More Than Fish
Fish living in freshwater habitats have plenty of company. Snails, worms, turtles, frogs, marsh
birds, mollusks, alligators, beavers, otters, snakes, and many types of insects live there too.
Some unusual animals, like the river dolphin and the diving bell spider, are freshwater
creatures. Plants such as algae, cattails, water lilies, and aspen and willow trees help keep the
water clean by using their root systems to filter pollution and excess nutrients from the water.

A Place for Water


Lakes are formed by different acts of nature. Many appeared after glaciers moved across Earth
during the last ice age, between 12,000 and 1.8 million years ago, and left giant bowl-shaped
hollows in the land that filled with rainwater and runoff. Others were created when Earth’s
crust shifted, leaving grooves and ridges to catch water. And sometimes when a volcano erupts,
all the magma flows out. If the land collapses into the empty crater, it leaves holes that can turn
into huge lakes. Crater Lake in Oregon was made this way.
Rivers are created when melting snow or ice runs down mountains, following the grooves and
channels of the land on the way to the sea—rivers always flow to an ocean. Wetlands, areas
where the land is covered with water most of the time, often form in the land surrounding
rivers that flood, or in areas where groundwater seeps up through the bedrock underneath the
soil. Bedrock is made of different types of rocks like granite, sandstone and limestone. Water
can seep through the cracks between these rocks, and it can dissolve limestone. Beavers can
even create wetlands by building dams on rivers and streams.

Famous Freshwaters
The largest freshwater habitat in the world is
the Everglades, a 1.5 million acre wetlands in
southern Florida. The Amazon River in South
America begins in the Andes Mountains and
goes 4,000 miles (6,400 km) to the Atlantic
Ocean; it flows through six countries, including
Peru and Ecuador. Lake Baikal in Siberia, a
region in Russia, is the world’s biggest lake. This
North Asian body of water contains one-fifth of all the freshwater on the planet.
So whether you’re a hungry turtle, a pollutant-sucking plant, or a thirsty human who also likes
to play in the water, freshwater habitats are vital ecosystems for our planet!

Marine habitats

The marine environment supplies many kinds of habitats that support marine life. Marine
life depends in some way on the saltwater that is in the sea (the term marine comes from
the Latin mare, meaning sea or ocean). A habitat is an ecological or environmental area
inhabited by one or more living species.
Marine habitats can be divided into coastal and open ocean habitats. Coastal habitats
are found in the area that extends from as far as the tide comes in on the shoreline out to
the edge of the continental shelf. Most marine life is found in coastal habitats, even though
the shelf area occupies only seven percent of the total ocean area. Open ocean habitats
are found in the deep ocean beyond the edge of the continental shelf.
Alternatively, marine habitats can be divided into pelagic and demersal zones. Pelagic
habitats are found near the surface or in the open water column, away from the bottom
of the ocean. Demersal habitats are near or on the bottom of the ocean. An organism
living in a pelagic habitat is said to be a pelagic organism, as in pelagic fish. Similarly, an
organism living in a demersal habitat is said to be a demersal organism, as in demersal
fish. Pelagic habitats are intrinsically shifting and ephemeral, depending on what ocean
currents are doing.

Marine habitats can be modified by their inhabitants. Some marine organisms,


like corals, kelp, mangroves and seagrasses, are ecosystem engineers which reshape
the marine environment to the point where they create further habitat for other organisms.
By volume, oceans provide about 99 percent of the living space on the planet
In contrast to terrestrial habitats, marine habitats are shifting and ephemeral. Swimming
organisms find areas by the edge of a continental shelf a good habitat, but only
while upwellings bring nutrient rich water to the surface. Shellfish find habitat on sandy
beaches, but storms, tides and currents mean their habitat continually reinvents itself.
The presence of seawater is common to all marine habitats. Beyond that many other
things determine whether a marine area makes a good habitat and the type of habitat it
makes. For example:

 temperature – is affected by geographical latitude, ocean currents, weather, the


discharge of rivers, and by the presence of hydrothermal vents or cold seeps
 sunlight – photosynthetic processes depend on how deep and turbid the water is
 nutrients – are transported by ocean currents to different marine habitats from land
runoff, or by upwellings from the deep sea, or they sink through the sea as marine
snow
 salinity – varies, particularly in estuaries or near river deltas, or by hydrothermal vents
 dissolved gases – oxygen levels in particular, can be increased by wave actions and
decreased during algal blooms
 acidity – this is partly to do with dissolved gases above, since the acidity of the ocean
is largely controlled by how much carbon dioxide is in the water.
 turbulence – ocean waves, fast currents and the agitation of water affect the nature
of habitats
 cover – the availability of cover such as the adjacency of the sea bottom, or the
presence of floating objects
 the occupying organisms themselves – since organisms modify their habitats by the
act of occupying them, and some, like corals, kelp, mangroves and seagrasses,
create further habitats for other organisms.
Estuarine habitats

Estuarine fish habitats occur where fresh water from rivers and streams mixes with the salty
ocean water. This brackish water environment supports a variety of fish habitats, including:
These environments provide important feeding, spawning and nursery sites for many aquatic
animals. There are animals, such as crabs and some mosquitoes, that rely on estuarine water to
complete their life cycles and others, such as migratory shore birds, visit estuaries to feed and
rest.
Did you know...
70% of coastal fish species in south-eastern Australia need to move through estuaries to
complete their life cycle.
Many fish species spend all or part of their life in estuaries and as a result estuaries support
diverse and productive commercial and recreational fisheries and the oyster industry. These are
important contributors to the local economies of many regional towns.