Ecological Niche

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ecological Niche


the role of a species (more precisely, its population) in a biological community (biocenosis). The interaction of a given species (population) with other members of the community establishes its role in the cycle of matter, determined by food and competition ties in the biocenosis.

The term “ecological niche” was proposed by the American scientist J. Grinnell (1917). The interpretation of the ecological niche as the position of a species in the food chain of one or several biocenoses was proposed by the British ecologist C. Elton (1927). Such an interpretation makes it possible to assign a quantitative value to the ecological niche of each species or its individual populations. In order to accomplish this, a comparison is made, within a system of coordinates, between the abundance of a species (the number of individuals or the biomass) and an indicator of the temperature, humidity, or some other environmental factor. In this way, it is possible to establish the optimum zone and the limits tolerated by a species (the maximum and minimum for each factor or combination of factors).

As a rule, every species occupies a specific ecological niche, to which it has become adapted by the entire course of evolutionary development. The location that a species (population) occupies in space (spatial niche) is usually called the habitat.


Odum, E. Osnovy ekologii. Moscow, 1975. (Translated from English.)
Hutchinson, G. E. The Ecological Theater and the Evolutionary Play. New Haven, 1965. Pages 26–78.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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