A habitat is the natural home or environment of a plant, animal, or other organism. It provides the organisms that live there with food, water, shelter and space to survive.
Habitats consist of both biotic and abiotic factors. Biotic factors are living things. Abiotic factors are nonliving things
Types of Australian habitats
Coasts are places where the land meets the sea. Australia is an island and has a huge coastline that has many different habitats. Coastal habitats include beaches, sand dunes, rock pools, estuaries and mangroves
- Coastal water is the seawater around the coast. It is usually more sheltered and shallower than the open ocean.
- Beaches are very often very sandy areas. Beaches also include areas of rocks, dunes and crashing waves
- Sand dunes are formed by the wind blowing off the ocean and dropping sand high along the beach. Storms and people easily damage sand dunes.
- Rock pools and platforms are part of the rocky shore environment. Animals and plants in these habitats survive being flooded in high tide and drying out at low tide.
- Estuaries are where the rivers and streams meet the sea. They provide important shelter for lots of young animals and plants.
- Mangroves are groups of shrubs and trees that grow on the mud flats in coastal areas. These areas are often underwater at high tide
Freshwater habitats include lakes, rivers, billabongs, wetlands and ponds. Many animals and plants live in or near these habitats. They rely on them to provide food, shelter and a place to breed.
- Lakes are large areas of still water. Some large fresh water lakes dry up in times of drought.
- Rivers are pathways of flowing water. The water can be fast flowing or flowing slowly. Some large rivers in Australia include the Murray River, the Derwent River and the Katherine River.
- Streams are small flows of water. Sometimes they are called creeks or rivulets.
- A pond is a small pool of still water.
- Wetlands are areas with lots water plants such as reeds, grasses and lilies. Fresh water wetlands increase in size after rain. Lots of birds move into wetlands after rain.
- Billabongs are small pools of water that appear next to rivers after heavy rain.
Forests are places with tall trees and a thick canopy. In Australia the three main types of forest include dry forests, wet forests and rainforests.
- The trees in dry forests usually do not grow as tall as trees in rainforests and wet forests. The trees are also not as close together, so their branches often do not overlap. This means lot of light can reach the ground. Grasses, shrubs and groundcovers often grow on the ground in dry forests.
- Wet forests have very tall trees and they are usually found in areas where it rains a lot. The leaves of the trees come together to form a canopy which is quite thick. This means it is not easy to see the sky when you are standing in a wet forest.
- Rainforests have trees of all different heights growing close together. Lots of the trees are tall and their leaves touch at the top to form a thick canopy. When you look up in a rainforest you can only see small patches of sky. Rainforests can be very wet and dark environments because light from the sun does not get to the ground very often.
- Woodlands are places where the trees are spaced apart with heath and grassland in between. They often have open grassy spaces as well as clumps of trees, rocks and bushes.
- Woodlands have medium sized trees that do not grow very close together. Common trees in these habitats include eucalypts. Woodlands are good habitats for many kinds of animals.
- Natural grasslands are areas where the most common plants are native grasses. Tussock grass often grows in these habitats.
- Cliffs and rocky areas provide important shelter for many animals and plants.
- Heath areas are places where the most common plants are low shrubs. During the winter and spring these areas can be covered in wildflowers.
Australia is the second driest continent in the world. This does not mean that areas without fresh water do not have plants and animals. In fact, arid zone habitats are full of life. Some arid zone habitats include tall shrubs, heath, grasslands, sandy areas and rocky areas.
- Tall shrub areas have small eucalypt, mulga and acacia trees. These trees usually have roots that force their way deep into the soil to find water.
- Heath areas are covered in bluebush and saltbush plants. These shrubs are bushy and grow close to the ground. There are many different types of heath found across Australia.
- Spinifex grass often grows in arid zone grasslands. Spinifex has leaves that are hard and spiky like needles. This stops the plant from losing lots of water.
- Sand dunes are made by the wind as it blows across the desert. Once a small dune forms it acts as a barrier to the wind. Sand then drops on its slopes and the dune gets bigger.
- Rocky areas provide important shelter for many animals and plants. Caves, cracks and ledges make good homes and a cool place to shelter.
Many animals live in and visit Antarctica and the islands around it. Antarctic habitats include pack ice, mountains and the surrounding seas.
- Pack ice is often seen as huge floating pieces. It forms in the winter months when it becomes so cold that the sea surrounding Antarctica freezes.
- The mountains in Antarctica are often entirely covered by an ice sheet which can be up to 4 km thick. Only the highest Antarctic mountains are seen through the top of this ice-cap. This ice covers 98% of Antarctica leaving only a few bare rocky areas.
- In the sub-Antarctic region there are lots of small islands. Some of these islands like Australia's Heard Island are almost completely capped by glaciers. Others, such as Macquarie Island, are ice-free and have no permanent snow cover.
- The seas around Antarctica are full of life. Whales, seals and krill, and birds such as penguins and albatross all live in or rely on these waters.
Lots of people live in big cities and towns. Many Australian plants and animals have adapted to live with us in our gardens, buildings, parks and harbours. Find out what might live in your backyard.
Garden-Lots of animals and plants like to share our gardens with us. Some people create special habitats to encourage animals and plants to live in their yards. Ponds, bird baths and native plants are some ways to make your garden more appealing to local animals.
Harbours are sheltered ports where ships often load or unload their cargo. They can be busy places with ferries, water taxis and many other boats getting around on them.
Parks are open natural places in town and cities. There are lots of different types of parks but they all are places where plants and animals live.
High-rise buildings-Big cities often have very tall buildings. While these areas often have little native habitat left some animals still find food and shelter in the middle of the city.
Houses are not just homes for us, but animals and plants often live in them too.