A habitat is defined as a specific, unique area that supports plants, animals, and any other biological forms of life. The world is filled with different types of habitats, even though some official resources list only four types of main biomes. Arctic, aquatic, desert, and grassland are just some of the different and diverse habitats spread out across the world.
Habitats support life, but also protect the environment that surrounds them. Each habitat has its own unique weather, and a symbiotic relationship that sets it apart from how another habitat might work.
Unfortunately, it is also a truth that the world’s habitats are under severe threat. Human interference and pollution are two of its largest problems – and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that only 23% of all species are considered safe.
Did you know that both Arizona and Ethiopia contain deserts – but that other, manmade deserts also exist in the world?
There aren’t just four habitats in the world, but many more that encompasses a rich, almost unending variety of life. Sometimes, you change from one habitat to another just by going into your garden.
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Here are 13 interesting examples of habitats.
The arctic climate is characterized by lowered, freezing climate – but that is not its only distinguishing feature. Arctic habitats are defined by their icy environment and the combined lack of trees due to the weather conditions.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, arctic habitats are under serious threat due to overwarming – and have warmed by at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.
Arctic environments exist all over the United States, Canada, Russia, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Greenland. If there’s ice and a lack of trees, you might be in an arctic climate!
Polar habitats exist separately and are located at the utmost poles of the world (where conditions reach even further into the extremes).
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The term aqua means water, and it should provide a clear clue to what you can find in this habitat. Aquatic habitats are officially defined as rivers, lakes, wetlands, and lagoons – ones where the water concentration is less than 1%.
Simply, aquatic biomes have a lot of water – and exist in smaller capacities too. A small pool of water is just as much of an aquatic ecosystem as the larger river near your house!
Aquatic habitats can be found all over the world, though they are distinguished from Marine habitats in two ways.
First, the salt concentration of a marine habitat is high – and second, the concentration of a marine habitat is higher than that of an aquatic one.
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Coastal habitats are a type of environment that are flanked by a combination of ocean on the one side and land on the other. Coasts are known for their high humidity levels, which often lead to other habitats (like coastal forests) in close proximity.
While a marine habitat would describe the ocean itself, the term coastal refers to the rich selection of animal and plant life that can be found around it.
Weather conditions in coastal areas are not, often, extreme – but can be varied, with higher rainfall than comparative habitats, like grasslands.
Mangroves, seagrass, kept forests and the beach are different types of coastal habitats. These areas all support vast forms of life, and co-exists with the environments near it.
Coastal areas are one of the most protected habitats in the world, and like wetlands, often one of the most damaged by pollution and industry.
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Desert habitats are defined by their dry, arid conditions and lack of flowing streams of water that you would associate with some other habitats.
The desert can sometimes be unforgiving for humans on their own, but still remains a very rich environment for plant and animal life.
Temperatures in the average desert habitat might reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more. While they can be extremely hot, deserts are also known for cooling down at night – this gives its unique selection of nocturnal nature the time to flourish.
Deserts might not look like it at first sight, but they are an ideal habitat for many.
Arizona and Ethiopia are two examples of the world’s deserts, rich in life – but still with much of a need for environmental protection to preserve these areas for the future.
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5. Desert (Manmade)
Deserts are characterized by their high temperatures, low humidity and harsh conditions – but sometimes, deserts are not a natural occurrence.
Manmade deserts aren’t a natural biome, but an ecological disaster.
The phenomenon is called desertification, and sees the lush green of an area stripped over a long period of time. Eventually and subject to more physical abuse, the area eventually becomes an unnatural desert.
The Sahara is one example of an area that wasn’t always known as a desert, but became one thanks to human interference.
Worldwide projects are in place to prevent desertification, and to reverse the damage in areas where desertification has already done its damage.
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Forest environments exist to support as much as 3/4 of the world’s life, and it makes the average forest one of the most diverse areas in life – that’s if you know where to look for it.
There are different types of forests, categorized by the types of trees that are predominantly found in it. A forest might be tropical, but also coniferous or coastal.
Forests support a wide selection of different lifeforms, including mushrooms, various forms of moss and often hundreds of different birds, mammals and insects.
Forests like the Amazon are under an increased threat of deforestation. Efforts are being made to restore forests to their former glory, and to prevent damage to existing ones.
Grasslands get their name from the two things you are most likely to see in this habitat: an abundance of both grass and land in the same biosphere.
The Serengeti is perhaps one of the most famous examples of grassland in the world, though grasslands with similar weather conditions and nature can be found everywhere (including Australia, New Zealand and the United States).
Large, open areas define the average grassland habitat.
While the environment can be hot, the average grassland gets enough rain throughout the year to support its rich and diverse life.
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The term tundra describes a specific type of habitat that stands out from the rest due to its elevation – often, extreme temperatures edging to the low end of the thermometer are typical of the tundra.
A tundra might be arctic or alpine, with Alpine tundra considered especially high.
Alaska and Canada both contain tundra, though certain areas of the Alps would also classify. (Yes, it’s the elevation.)
Within an arctic tundra, temperatures can be as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit. Problematic for people, but ideal for the life which this specific habitat supports.
Global warming is one of the unfortunate environmental factors which affect the world’s tundra. If temperatures rise too far, these wonderful areas can no longer support life.
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9. Mountain Ranges
Mountain ranges are something that you might think of as environments rather than habitats, but a mountain range creates its own weather system – and thus, it counts as its own habitat for a variety of life unique to it.
Of the world’s mountain ranges, the Andes is considered one of the longest – though there are several large (and smaller) mountain ranges to be found across the world.
What makes it a range?
Several connected mountains are what make up a mountain range, usually with their own peak (or highest elevation level.
Approximately one-third of the world’s surface is covered with various mountain ranges.
Some mountain ranges are known for their harsh climates, and some stretches remain unexplored to this day due to the danger associated with their exploration.
But mountain ranges are also unique and support hundreds of different lifeforms. Famed for their beauty, mountain ranges create their own ecosystem and weather thanks to combined natural factors (among others, elevation, humidity, and heat).
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Steppes are a special type of habitat that falls somewhere between several biomes and needs their own classification. The world’s steppes are known to be semi-arid, but are not quite dry enough to classify these areas as deserts – thus, these plains are known as prairies.
The prairies of North America are famous all over the world. Prairie dogs, of course, can be found there – though they are a type of burrowing rodent, not a dog!
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Wetlands are one of the world’s most unique environments, and several hundred different wetlands exist all over the world – including the swamps of Mississippi.
Wetlands are called ‘wet’ because the environment absorbs water, sometimes throughout the entire year.
The world’s wetlands are protected, but also protective. The presence of wetlands can reduce the damage in the event of natural disaster – and additionally, wetlands also act as a natural water filtration system.
It’s thanks to the world’s wetlands that we have clean rivers and lakes!
Unfortunately, wetlands are also one of the most affected biomes in the world. Taking the most damage thanks to our carbon footprint, the great wetland is one of the most important natural environments we have on Earth.
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Microhabitats are habitats that make up a smaller surface area than comparisons (like deserts and arctic environments).
According to the World Atlas, microhabitats include coniferous forests, open woodlands but also glades.
A microhabitat can also be found at the bottom of a leaf, or in a pool of water.
If it’s small and supports its own forms of life, it can be called a microhabitat (and there are ones literally all around us).
Not all habitats are major, but all habitats should be a major concern!
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13. Extreme Habitats
There is one more type of habitat that you might not read about in every resource, and that’s called the extreme habitat. Several extreme habitats exist in the world, and they do not traditionally fit into the categories we’ve already described.
An extreme habitat is one that is harsh, though not too harsh to support its own combination of life.
For a habitat to count as extreme, it also has to be a specific kind of harsh environment. The conditions that contribute to a harsh environment include hypersalinity, heightened (or lowered) air pressure, and extreme dryness.
While extreme habitats are not ideal conditions for humans, they are perfect for exceptional animals, insects, plants, and microorganisms.
Organisms that can survive the conditions in these extreme conditions are called extremophiles – for example, the depths of the sea.
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12.1 Deep Ocean
The definition of a “deep” ocean is at least 650 feet down into the depths. Deep ocean conditions include such a drastic pressure change that it has remained unexplored by humans for a very long time – but today, we have the means.
The deep ocean is extreme, but still supports a vast variety of different life – including the anglerfish.
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Deserts are one form of environment that can also sometimes be extreme. When heat reaches into extreme heights that humans cannot handle for extended periods of time, a rare biome emerges – the extreme desert.
Extreme deserts are some of the harshest places on Earth, but also simultaneously rich in life.
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Volcanoes are found throughout the world and might exist in one of two states: active or inactive. Active volcanoes include Italy’s Mount Etna, which had a recent eruption in February 2021.
Mount Kilimanjaro is an example of a dormant (or inactive) volcano, one which has not had an eruption for years.