The or the biotope ( gr βíος bios "life" and τόπος tópos "City" ) is a specific habitat of a community ( biocenosis ) in an area. Biotopes are the smallest units of the biosphere. In the field of nature conservation and landscape management biotopes pragmatic viewpoints are assigned to habitat types. The term was first introduced by Friedrich Dahl in science in 1908.


The term biotope is value-free. As habitats are referred to both naturally formed landscape elements such as streams, mountain forest, coniferous forest, mixed forest, etc. as well - contrary to the colloquial usage - from human -created landscape components such as " concrete jungles " ( for example, city landscapes). Other common examples of biotopes are about flood plains, deserts, tidal environments or orchards. The definition of a biotope is strictly requires a reference to a type of plants, fungi and animals, or a community of such ( a biocenosis ). Many habitat designations and accruals are based, however, in practice, not to the often hidden or mobile dwelling organisms, but rather to the more easily comprehensible abiotic conditions ( such as urban landscape, coast, desert, mud, rivers, etc.). A biotope is in the life sciences, a habitat of organisms, a " biotope in itself" is meaningless, a " non-living habitat " is not. This relationship can to the classification of " habitat types " widely used, however, will be lost.

A biotope can be both a space of different habitats ( faunistic or floristic " living spaces ") and even part of one or more habitats. It can both characterize the existing biological communities ( community ) and are influenced by it, which is why you must always originate from an interaction between life and habitat.

Habitats can be attributed as a small form of specific biomes or ecozones ( major ecological regions). Delineation and number of biomes are a matter of opinion, disseminated (eg Begon et al. ) Is the distinction of eight terrestrial biomes ( Arctic tundra, Northern coniferous forest, forest in the temperate zones, tropical rain forest, tropical green forests, grasslands, tropical savannas, Mediterranean vegetation, desert, mountains ).

Through the expression of the biocenosis abiotic and human ( hemerobe ) influences of a place can be detected. Nevertheless, even (supposedly) are inanimate places such as deserts or bare rock habitats, which can be distinguished by a set of abiotic characteristics but. This definition assumes that every location on earth habitable (and indeed inhabited ), "City of Life" is. Under what circumstances can establish which biological communities, is the subject of debate in ecology and nature conservation. But one has on earth wherever has been sought after, found life (at least micro-organisms), including rock crevices in several hundred meters depth.

Colloquially, the term has been used for the conservation debate of the 1970s and judgmental for one, most newly created small landscape area used, the endangered animal or plant species (mostly amphibians) to serve as a habitat. Very often it is a bit wet fallow with a self-dug pond in it ( "We place a biotope "). This use of the term does not correspond to its importance in science, but also resonates with professional use with sometimes by " biotope " simply not value-free, but is used a positive connotation (as in " ecological networks "). What is meant is then actually " a habitat worth protecting species / community ".

Distinction between the habitat

To distinguish the term biotope the habitat ( " habitat "). While the term biotope has a functional component is a habitat of the ( spatially understood) habitat, the living place of a species or species community, possibly even a part of it (eg summer and winter habitat ). Habitats and habitats need not be congruent. The biotope of a community (eg, a forest ) can provide different habitats for different species ( a forest has structures such as knots, crown and herb layer, soil ... ), eg for insects. A habitat can include multiple habitats, such as complementary habitats, like migratory birds and many mammals that visit, for example, winter and summer quarters.

In the English -speaking world, the term habitat ( "habitat " ) is usually used in the meaning of the German " biotope ". In English-language books, partly also in those which have been translated from English, the terms are synonymous then. Later, the term biotope ( " biotope " ) from the Germans in the English-speaking world has been imported - though less in its original, technical meaning, but more in the second colloquially - judgmental sense.


A biotope ( here interpreted as a spatial extension of a given habitat type ) is the smallest spatial unit in landscape ecology - this use of the term covers are slightly different from those in ecology. A very small biotope for example, a church tower or a dying tree to be ( part of Habitat for eg bats and insects). However, some habitats may vary according to classification of detecting (biotope type mapping ) occupy a very large area ( eg lakes, mudflats ). Depending on the problem and question within the ecology habitats restrictive than Phytotope (plant site) and Zootope (Animal Lives ) can sometimes be identified. However, these names are not commonly used.

A biotope ( or more ), along with the animals and plants that live there and the interactions between them form an ecosystem. In landscape ecology next to it is the ( obsolete ) term " biogeocoenose " to be found. More about habitats are in the category: biotope

Assessment and hazard

Habitats and habitat types are often rated according to their rarity (or area development and functional position in the ecosystem ), according to their suitability as habitat for threatened species, or their degree of human influence ( hemeroby ).

Habitats (habitats) of mobile species are often composed of several habitat types (as part habitats ) together. This results in species-rich biotope complexes in spatial proximity of various natural habitats. Tessellate composite cultural landscapes from extensive forms partially replace habitats, could develop without interference of man in the course of succession ( ecosystem development ) by itself ( natural landscapes). Structure of landscapes of this type are mainly by economic interests of the Company threatened ( land by transport, settlement and resource extraction, intensification of agriculture and forestry). Individual habitats or ecosystems also suffer from the entry of pollutants from the air or by direct discharges.

Many mobile species have also a minimum requirement to surface size. First of all animal species that move around on the ground or are very shy, need larger, contiguous habitats. Roads, agricultural or forestry monocultures and settlements or individual structures (eg hydro) represent not only a loss of habitat area, leading to extinction of relatively insensitive species (most mass- occurring insects, spiders, micro-organisms ) can result in subspaces. Through dissection and negative edge zone influences they reduce the quality and accessibility of the remaining habitats (isolation), are so many sensitive and mobile species (eg, lynx, wolf, eagles, many species of fish ) extinct or endangered and the biotopes can not repopulate despite intensive efforts.

Habitat protection and habitat connectivity

The habitat protection is a strategy within the nature conservation. His goal is usually the conservation of populations of endangered and worthy of protection of animal and plant species through special protection and conservation of their habitats. Contrast (or: complementary thereto ) is the (direct ) species protection. Typical instrument of habitat protection is the designation of protected areas. It should be defined and obtained areas in which the protection of nature takes precedence over land use, or in which at least the nature conservation issues must be considered when using. Typical species protection measures can take place within these areas to specifically promote individual species or groups of species, such as System of a pond for amphibians or receipt of dead trees in a forest to protect the deadwood fauna. But you can also start in areas where the nature is subordinated, eg Hanging nest boxes in home gardens to promote songbirds. Normally, the protection of biotopes is not even the purpose of habitat protection, but the preservation of depend on them animal and plant species. Within the habitat protection different strategies are pursued. The conservative nature tries currently particularly species-rich habitats as unchanged as possible (or even optimized) to obtain. This is done in particular the preservation of particular species-rich so-called half- culture formations. These are habitats that owe their origin to previously common, extensive forms of land use, eg And many nations, poor grass, wet meadows, orchards To maintenance measures are required in the rule, which engage in the natural development. A form of it is the contractual nature conservation by ( with restrictions in use linked) contracts with land users seeking the same goal (usually farmers ). In contrast, the protection process tried to create areas where the natural forces can act unaffected and unhindered. It is hoped then that which creates the habitats for endangered species by itself. Some conservationists already hold the workings of these natural forces themselves in an area for protection, without this special target species should be encouraged. This position, however, is not very common in nature conservation.

Important strategy of habitat protection in the official nature conservation is the designation of conservation areas. Other categories of protected areas under the Federal Nature Conservation Act are less significant in relation thereto. Sometimes laminar natural monuments can meet ( FNDS ) similar functions. The few large national parks have ( in addition to their importance for nature tourism and recreation ) rather complementary function. National Parks essentially correspond to particularly large-scale conservation areas. In them beyond the approach of process protection is particularly important. The Federal Nature Conservation Act and the conservation laws of the states still define additionally particularly valuable habitat types that are protected without further designation of protected areas. These are especially types which are rare and need a long recovery time (time for re- formation ), such as bogs.

Legally protected habitats

Legally protected habitats according to § 30 Federal Nature Conservation Act are:

Impairments of these legally protected biotopes are prohibited. If an "overriding public interest" requires an infringement, exceptions may be permitted; in these cases, the adverse effects must be compensated for in an appropriate manner.

The success of initial efforts of habitat protection, which was limited to the preservation and restoration of valuable biotopes was severely limited by the isolation of habitats through traffic and settlements. Due to the increasing pressure of economic land uses can be minimal demands on habitat variables or the critical bond distances of some species not satisfying. Some animals can not reach their complementary habitats (eg, spawning areas ) or are isolated from other populations ( genetic erosion ). Therefore, another key objective of conservation of the habitat network is since the amendment of the Federal Nature Conservation Act 2001 became ( § 3Vorlage: § / Maintenance / buzer BNatSchG old version ).

The biotope network aims at removing the barriers to species. A composite consists of so-called stepping stones (for mobile species such as birds), from linear elements ( eg hedges, rivers, streams, field margins, etc.), composite surfaces (eg structurally rich areas for wildlife ), and from the fact to be protected biotopes or core areas of a nature reserve. The biotope network claimed in particular areas within settlements or traffic facilities to reduce their negative barrier effect. Single measures include green bridges or toad tunnels, the animals are put in a position to obtain despite the intensive land-use their habitat requirements to some extent.

Since 1988, the habitat of the year is proclaimed in Hesse, to make the public aware of endangered or particularly valuable biotopes.

Criticism and resistance

The habitat protection is democratically legitimized as a social and political objective and defined by law. On the other hand, make the preservation and restoration of valuable biotopes a financially and energetically high effort required, the external, ie usually to be borne by the general public, cost means. The precious, artificial cultural landscape is to get under the pressure of economic interests land-intensive uses ( agriculture, forestry, settlement activities, resource extraction ) only through political instruments. The effectiveness of care and protection measures to the non-specialist observers reveals itself not always, and so measures are often called " senseless waste " or perceived as " unreasonable ".

A major societal resistance to habitat protection, in addition to the pressure by land acquisition is that the resulting external costs are not internalized in the production costs or prices for consumers. The complex management of biotopes would be necessary in a much lesser extent, when their use or management of higher prices paid for ( and encouraged ) would. Through increased efficiency, which was accompanied by a deterioration in the condition of nature and landscape, resources were released in the past. These resources are so far not sufficiently used to maintain the state of nature and landscape as livelihood of the people.

A reasonable strategy is the establishment of protected areas, in which certain habitats can adjust by itself. At the same time, however, takes the zoning and settlement pressure constantly. The scale urban sprawl and recreational needs of the population make effective protected areas, where nature would remain left to itself, ultimately, in many regions of seemingly impossible.