Studying plants and animals in their habitat is a science known as ECOLOGY

Studying a Habitat

The habitat of an animal or plant is the type of place it choses to make its home

Examples of habitats: Pond, Garden, Wood, Meadow

The habitat of an animal needs to provide a place to make its home and breed, the correct food, shelter from the weather and protection from its enemies.

FOOD:
Plants make their own food by a process called photosynthesiss.
Thiis is when they make food from simple chemicals around them, (carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil).
The energy to do this comes from the sun.

Without sunlight all plants would die

Animals rely on eating plants or other animals for their food.

Without plants all life on this planet would die.

 

FOOD CHAIN
A food chain is a list of organisms to show a simple feeding pattern within a habitat

eg    CABBAGE LEAF  SLUG  THRUSH  FOX

This means that the cabbage is eaten by the slug ….
                which is eaten by the thrush.
                            .. which is eaten by the fox.

The arrows shows the transfer of food energy from one organism to the next.
The cabbage leaf gets its energy from the sun

  •   The first organism in a food chain is called a PRODUCER and is always a PLANT
  •   All other organisms in the food chain are CONSUMERS 

 

The animal at the top of the food chain is often a PREDATOR and is called a top carnivore

  PRODUCER  PRIMARY CONSUMER  SECONDARY CONSUMER

The animals which eat the plant are called HERBIVORES
The animals which eat other animals are called CARNIVORES

example:
a SLUG is a HERBIVORE
a FOX is a CARNIVORE

Animals tha hunt for their food are PREDATORS
Animals that are being hunted are the PREY

example:
When a thrush eats a snail the thrush is a predator and the snail is the prey

 

Food Web
In any habitat there will be several food chains combined together to form a FOOD WEB.

 

A food web from a garden

Producer Producer Producer Primary Consumer Primary Consumer Primary Consumer Secondary onsumer Secndary Consumr Secondary Consumer Carnivore 

 

foodweb

 Decomposers
Decomposers (small animals that live in the soil, worms, beetles etc) help recycle the dead food and so provide simple chemicals for the plants to use again.
The most useful decomposers are the FUNGI and BACTERIA which help the dead plants and animals rot

The balance of nature
Life in any habitat is a delicate balance.
Changing the numbers of one animal or plant can alter that balance.

Example
Another cat comes to live near your garden (see the food web above)
What would be the effect on the population (numbers) of other animals and plants in the garden?

Answer
The cats would eat more thrushes (and other small birds) so there will be fewer birds.
Thrushes eat slugs. As there are fewer birds the number of slugs would increase.

Slugs eat the lettuce plants so more slugs will mean less lettuce plants.

 

 

ADAPTION
Animals and plants are often adapted to their habitats.
This means that they have special features that help them to survive.

An African elephant, for example, lives in a hot habitat and has very large ears that it flaps to keep cool.
A polar bear, on the other hand, lives in a cold habitat and has thick fur to keep warm.

Pond habitat
Here are some plants and animals that have adapted to living in a pond habitat.

  • a. Frog – The frog has webbed feet to help it swim quickly.
    It’s eyes are large and rounded which allow it to look in all directions without moving it’s head.
    A frog can absorb oxygen though it’s skin allowing it to remain underwater for longer.
  • b. Water spider – Hair-like bristles cover the abdomen, which trap air and allows the spider to breathe underwater.
  • c. Lily pad – The lily pad has a jelly-like substance on the bottom of its leaves to make it hard for insects to grab on to it


How the environment can change and effect living things

Humans can have positive and negative effects on wildlife by changing their
habitats. Below are some examples:
[The note below courtesy of Young People’s Trust for the Environment
]

Negative Effects

Litter
Ask the children how they think litter could harm wildlife. Slide 35 outlines
some of the dangers: animals can eat it and either choke, be poisoned or suffer
internal injury; it can get caught in animals’ wings, necks and legs; it can injure
animals e.g. broken glass, rusty tins; animals can become trapped in it e.g. plastic
bottles, fishermen’s nets; it can start fires e.g. broken glass, cigarettes and it
can leak substances into the soil that can make it difficult for plants to grow.
Young People’s Trust for the Environment https://ypte.org.uk Registered charity number 1153740
Creating a better future by inspiring young people to look after our world.

Chemical Pollution
Chemicals from fertilisers, pesticides and industrial waste can pollute streams,
rivers and the coastline. This can lead to fish, other animals and water plants
being killed.

 Oil spills
Oil can leak into the land and the sea. This can result in the fur and feathers of
animals becoming choked with oil and can cause death. It can also poison
animals, choke them and cause blindness.

Deforestation
All over the world trees are being cut down. This is sometimes done so that the
wood can be sold, but often it is to clear the land for farming or development.
Where land is being cleared, it is often deliberately burned rather than cut
down. Deforestation has devastating effects, as animals are left without a
habitat, while burning the forests releases more carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere. Rare plants and animals can be lost and those that survive at first
will struggle to live in areas full of people and roads etc.
You will find lots more information on deforestation here:
http://ypte.org.uk/lesson-plans/rainforests

Urban Development
As population grows and more people are living in our towns and cities, there is
increasing demand for housing, factories, shops, roads etc. When land is cleared
to make way for building projects, habitats are destroyed, food chains broken
and animals are enable to reach water or other animals to mate with. The cost
of development for living things can be very high indeed.
You will find plenty of information here on the environmental issues threatening
our planet and ideas about how we can live more sustainably:
http://ypte.org.uk/lesson-plans/sustainable-development

 Global warming
By burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees, humans are contributing to a
change in the Earth’s atmosphere that is causing it to heat up. It is resulting in
changing climate and weather patterns, in particular an increase in severe
weather events such as droughts, flooding and hurricanes in some parts of the
world.
You will find lots of resources here covering global warming and climate change:
http://ypte.org.uk/downloads/conservation-education-21-wildlife-and-climate-change

http://ypte.org.uk/downloads/conservation-education-29-climate-change-update

Positive Effects

 Nature reserves
These are set up to protect wildlife in an area. No building work is allowed in
these areas, so plants and animals are left to thrive. Are there any local nature
reserves or have the children ever visited one?

Ecologically planned farms, parks and gardens
Gardeners and farmers may introduce wildflowers into selected areas – this
helps to maintain habitats for invertebrates such as butterflies and bees, birds
and small animals such as dormice and hedgehogs. Other measures such as bird
boxes, bat boxes, insect houses, log piles and compost heaps can all help to
provide habitats and protect species.

Ponds
Garden and school ponds provide water for many living things, as well as a safe
habitat and breeding place for animals such as frogs, toads, newts, pond snails
and dragonflies. Today the pond is regarded as an endangered habitat, as so
many have been lost to urbanisation. Digging a pond in your school grounds or
garden will provide an essential habitat for many species of plants and animals.
Please see here for information and advice on ponds:
http://ypte.org.uk/downloads/conservation-education-12-ponds

Community Projects
Local communities sometimes help local wildlife e.g. helping toads reach their
breeding ground, campaigning for tunnels under roads or railway tracks so that
ducks, badgers, toads or deer can cross safely. Do the children know about any
local community projects?