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What Is a River Habitat?

A river running through a forest.
A wetland river.
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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2014
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A river habitat refers to the environment in which living organisms can survive in and around a river. This might refer to wildlife or plants. Most people think of fish when they think of a river habitat, which is true; fish often live in these types of habitats. Other wildlife though, such as microscopic creatures that live in the water, rocks, or soil, also call rivers home. In addition, many different types of plants live along the river bed and on the sides of the river, which can function as smaller habitats.

It is important to keep in mind when considering habitats and ecosystems that everything is connected. A river habitat can be viewed as one large habitat, or as a series of smaller habitats, each of which relies on the other to function properly. As a result, many things can affect a river habitat; changes to the river bank or the plants along the sides of the river can contribute to erosion. Pollution from stormwater runoff can also negatively impact the habitat, as well as people who litter and throw their trash on the ground rather than in the garbage can. Salinity and temperature changes in the river can also have an impact on river habitats.

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In order for any river habitat to be successful, a wide mix of plant and wildlife species is generally required. This is because it is necessary for food chains, also known as trophic levels, to exist in ecosystems. The types of plant and wildlife species that will be found in a river habitat vary greatly depending on the region of the world the river is found. Fish, plankton, and insects are some of the most common; mammals such as beavers may also build habitats along a river. Other wildlife, such as deer, may also use the river as a source of clean drinking water.

Wildlife may venture out of their their river habitats to search for food or for other purposes. The river habitat generally represents the place where they will return to sleep safely, to store collected food, or to remain camouflaged from potential predators. For these reasons, it is important to be careful when fishing or playing in and around a river, and be aware of all the potential habitats that are around. Taking extra care will ensure the habitats aren't damaged, and that they remain a safe place for wildlife to live.

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