Ed Golson Outdoor Education

Types of habitat

An organism's habitat is simply where it lives. A habitat is made up of a combination of abiotic factors , such as soil, temperature, as water, as well as all the other living things in the area. A tree's habitat is a forest. A fish's habitat is a lake or river. A human's habitat is a city or farm. Michigan is home to many types of habitat. 

One common habitat is a forest. Michigan is home to two main types of forests: coniferous forests containing mostly pine trees, and deciduous forests containing trees like maple, oak, or beech. Pine forests are found more to the north where it is colder because pine trees are better adapted to long, hard winters. Animals such as squirrels, white-tailed deer, some snakes and amphibians, and many types of birds call forests their home.  

Another popular type of habitat is a wetland. Wetlands are just what their name suggests- pieces of land that are wet. Places lake marshes, swamps, or bogs are good examples of wetlands. Animals that live in wetlands are well adapted to areas that have a lot of water. Plants like cattails thrive in wetlands. Many types of amphibians need to live in or near a wetland to survive.  

Michigan also has many areas of grassland habitat. Grasslands are areas that are too dry or have poor of soil to support many trees. They also might be areas where frequent disturbances make it hard for trees to grow.  Some people also consider a field of wheat or corn to be a type of grassland. They may be somewhat artificial, but they are often home to the same types of animals. Grasslands are home to many smaller types of animals like birds, insects, rabbits, and foxes. 

Of course, because of human interference, another type of habitat has been created. The suburban habitat. That's right- towns and suburbs can be considered to be a type of habitat. Think of all the parks, gardens, lawns, and bird feeders in an average town where an animal can live. Some animals actually prefer to live near towns than in the wild. Animals like squirrels, birds, raccoons, and even the occasional deer will gladly share our towns with us.  

Another important but often overlooked type of habitat are edges . Edges are areas where two different types of habitat come together. For example, an area where a grassland meets the forest is an edge. Edges are important because they have attributes of both types of habitat. Many species prefer to live in edges because they have a wider variety of resources. Some species will only live in edge habitats.

Don't forget about aquatic habitats! All water habitats are not the same. Rivers and streams are constantly moving, so they can dissolve more oxygen out of the air. Lakes and ponds are more stable, but less oxygen is present. Another thing to consider is how much dirt and silt is in the water. Some fish require very clear water in order to breathe. Depth is also important. The deeper you go, the less light and warmth is available. Some species are well adapted to the cold and darkness. Others prefer to live near the surface.

Of course, when talking about habitat, it is often important to consider the size of the habitat as well as the type. The gray wolf may require hundreds or possibly even thousands of acres of woodland before they can be can be comfortable.  Birds, may only require a few trees to be content. Small insects, may happily spend their entire life on the underside of a single leaf. Extremely small habitats like this are often called microhabitats. Knowing the type and size of an organism's habitat can make it much easier to understand the organism itself.

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