The etymological root of biotope is in the Greek language, where we find the words bio (which can be translated as “life”) and topos (which is translated as “place”). These ideas came to German as a biotope, and later to our language as a biotope.
The German Ernst Haeckel was the one who highlighted that the existence of biota (living beings that inhabit a certain area) in an ecosystem is determined by various environmental factors and by the interactions that organisms establish with each other. Haeckel, in this framework, proposed that habitat is a prerequisite to the birth and development of a living being.
A biotope, in this framework, is a place that provides the environmental characteristics that a group of living beings needs to survive and develop. It is an area that, due to its conditions, serves as a living space for certain animals, plants and other organisms.
The concept of biotope is very similar to that of habitat. However, the term habitat refers to the area where populations or species live; biotope, instead, refers to a biological community (biocenosis).
Biocenosis is made up of all organisms, of any species, that coexist in a biotope. In the biotope we can differentiate between zoocenosis (the community of animals), phytocenosis (plants) and microbiocenosis (microorganisms). The biotope and biocenosis make up the ecosystem.
Although the term biotope may seem at first glance merely a technicality within the field of ecology, in recent times it has been used a lot in administrative and civic activities. Since the 1970’s, on the European continent it has been the protagonist of various movements for the regeneration, preservation and generation of natural environments, especially in Germany.
In these fields, the biotope is often referred to to refer to smaller-scale ecological issues that take place in everyday life. When a biotope is affected by pollution or another factor, it is possible to carry out various tasks with the intention of restoring it, such as planting certain plant species or cleaning up water courses. This is very common in Germany, where there is a strong enthusiasm for biotope regeneration processes.
One of the most common biotope regeneration activities is to create green roofs, that is, to cover the roof of a building partially or totally with vegetation. This concept is also known as a roof garden or green roof, and can be performed either with a waterproof membrane to generate a suitable medium, or directly on the ground.
Green roofs may also have layers specifically designed to drain and irrigate water, as well as to act as root barriers. It is important to note that this concept is much broader and more complex than the mere placement of pots on the roofs, since it involves the use of technologies to save energy and improve the habitat, among other ecological functions.
In addition to the measures mentioned so far, to regenerate a biotope you can also appeal to the reconstruction of rivers with the aim of restoring their quality, to the conservation of trees and shrubs in cultivation areas that meet the ideal conditions, to the creation from natural parks on the sides of the roads, or to the design of private gardens and lagoons that respect the environment.
It is not appropriate for biotopes to be isolated but, on the contrary, it is recommended to connect them with the surrounding areas to promote the circulation of organisms. In this sense, one of the most used measures is to extend a biotope so that more animals and plants can inhabit it.