What is World Habitat Day?

World Habitat Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday of October, which means this year it falls on the 5th! Designated in 1985 by the United Nations, the idea is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and the basic right of all to adequate shelter. In essence, National Habitat Day focusses on the human habitat. But there are, of course, many different types of habitat, which are important for many different types of species. That is what we will be exploring today.

What is a habitat? © Beth Thompson

What is a Habitat?

A habitat is the natural environment in which a species is able to find food, shelter, protection and mates.

How big is a Habitat?

The amount of space that an organism needs varied greatly from species-to-species. A barnacle, for example, is a sessile species, and as such can need less than a square centimetre to survive. However, compare this to a humpback whale, who will travel hundreds of thousands of miles on their annual migration to feed and reproduce, this habitat is significantly larger.

How do we (humans) effect habitats?

Negative

If we change the physical or biological features of a natural environment, a habitat can become ill-suited for a species.

Guillemot with fish © Dr Sarah Perry

Overfishing and dredging, for example, can make a habitat no longer suitable for a marine species. Overfishing can reduce the amount of food available for fish-eating species, including marine mammals. While dredging can destroy important structural components of the ocean floor (i.e. coral reefs and similar) which act as shelter for many species.

Positive

However, that is not to say that the impact we have on habitats is always negative. We can also make artificial habitats and work to regenerate habitats that have previously been degraded or destroyed.

Here in Wales, seagrass meadows, a key habitat for many species including seahorse and pipefish, are being restored in Pembrokeshire by Swansea University, WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue. As well as providing a key habitat for a variety of species, these meadows are thought to absorb carbon from the atmosphere up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests!

You can learn more about seagrass meadows in our recent e-news here!

Seagrass © Paul Naylor | http://www.marinephoto.co.uk/

While internationally there are efforts to build artificial reefs which mimic some of the characteristics of natural reefs, and provide a structure to enhance the habitat for a variety of reef species. These artificial reefs vary in material from rocks, cinder blocks and old tyres, all the way to purposefully submerged ship wrecks!

Main Image: Strumble Head,