I’m feeling it now, are you?
I believe there is an inherent need in all of us to feel connected to the natural world around us. When we are not connected, the world is a fearful place. We are frightened to go outside, frightened to experience weather events, frightened to be anywhere but indoors where we can control (for the most part) the climate.
But it’s easy to forget that a huge majority of the people in this world live among nature, with no air conditioning, and minimal barriers between their lives and the natural world around them.
I experienced this sort of life during my recent trip to the island of Jamaica. I didn’t spend my time at a resort, coddled. The world around me was not a “paradise” created to lure in my tourist dollar. I consider my experience there to have been one of the more authentic travel experiences I have ever had.
This experience has caused me to reevaluate many things we take for granted in the civilized world. And yet, how important are these things to happiness? I’m not sure.
So today is the start of a new series of Friday posts I’m calling Habitat 101, designed to challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and experience some things you may find unpleasant. As a result, you may discover something about yourself, as well as the natural world.
To start at the beginning, what is habitat? Simply put, it’s the place where you live. My habitat is the place where I spend the most time. You can have a work habitat and a home habitat.
A habitat has to have several components to be a livable space. I need access to food, water, shelter and space. At home, I have all of these things.
When living in nature, any animal must be able to find the types of food their body requires, and enough water to keep themselves hydrated so blood flows and bodily functions occur. A creature must be able to find shelter when inclement weather happens, or when the air temperature becomes either too cold or too hot for their body to function. Finally, a creature must have enough space for their body to function properly. They can’t be crammed into a location, unable to move or reproduce. Overpopulation can make it difficult to find enough food, or adequate clean water to drink.
The Earth is made up of many different types of habitats. The largest divisions of these are known as biomes. Major biomes are forests, grasslands, deserts, oceans and alpine regions. Among these big divisions are many classifications, based on the types of plant life and the general climate of that area.
If you look at a map of the world’s biomes, you’ll notice repetition around the world: the same large biome areas occur at the same distance from the equator, or the north and south poles, on all continents of the world.
Those locations have the same general climate, and thus, the same types of plants, in general, are found there. Forests have different types of trees, deserts have desert plants and animals, grasslands have grasses and some types of trees. Alpine plants are specialized for high altitudes and extremes in temperature. And the oceans are a world all their own, with different plants and animals inhabiting areas based on the depth of the water, changes in pressure and the amount of oxygen available.
I hope this post has helped you make sense of one of the most basic concepts of ecology – habitat. If you have questions, please let me know! Stay tuned for more on future Fridays.