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Ecological niche

In ecology, a niche is the fit of a species living under specific environmental conditions. The ecological niche describes how an organism or population responds to the distribution of resources and competitors (for example, by growing when resources are abundant, and when predators, parasites and pathogens are scarce) and how it in turn alters those same factors (for example, limiting access to resources by other organisms, acting as a food source for predators and a consumer of prey). "The type and number of variables comprising the dimensions of an environmental niche vary from one species to another [and] the relative importance of particular environmental variables for a species may vary according to the geographic and biotic contexts". A Grinnellian niche is determined by the habitat in which a species lives and its accompanying behavioural adaptations. An Eltonian niche emphasizes that a species not only grows in and responds to an environment, it may also change the environment and its behaviour as it grows. The Hutchinsonian niche uses mathematics and statistics to try to explain how species coexist within a given community. The notion of ecological niche is central to ecological biogeography, which focuses on spatial patterns of ecological communities. "Species distributions and their dynamics over time result from properties of the species, environmental variation..., and interactions between the two—in particular the abilities of some species, especially our own, to modify their environments and alter the range dynamics of many other species." Alteration of an ecological niche by its inhabitants is the topic of niche construction.