By biotope, in ecology, we mean a portion of territory of limited size where plant and animal organisms of the same species or different species live, which together form a biocenosis.
The set of a biotope and a biocenosis form a functional system that defines itself as an ecosystem.
The biotope therefore represents the abiotic component of an ecosystem constituted by the soil or substrate, with its physical and chemical characteristics, by a determined microclimate (temperature, humidity, light and so on) but not considered separated from the biological component.
Biotopes can be of particular ecological importance when they cannot be reproduced elsewhere. In these cases the biotope can be of fundamental importance since its destruction or tampering involves the compromise of a particular biocenosis with consequent danger for the extinction of native species and races.
A distinction must also be made between biotope and habitat; a biotope is the physical space in which a community or biocenosis lives; a habitat is the physical space in which a species or an organism lives.
In turn, the distinction must be made between habitat and niche; niche indicates the role played by a species in the community by referring to the way it procures the energy and materials it requires for its survival.
Among the main biotopes we remember:
– Biotopes in an arid environment: these are typical of dry, arid areas with almost no vegetation. In these biotopes the temperatures are almost always high, and between day and night there are frequent remarkable thermal excursions;
– Watercourse biotopes: they are located near streams and springs. The presence of water affects biodiversity, in particular its clarity and purity which are fundamental factors for the flora and fauna of invertebrates;
– Riparian biotopes: a time of greater presence today these biotopes are very rare and reduced to a few hectares. The typical arboreal vegetation is represented by white and black alders, black and white poplar and white willow. Amphibians, birds and mammals also live there;
– Wet biotopes: these are found above all in the valley bottoms or in the highlands, they are full of water coming from the ground;
– Marine biotopes: consisting of rocks that contain within them mineral salts necessary for the survival of the biological community. Fish, seaweed and shells live there.