Concept of Place | National Geographic Society

"One of the oldest tenets of geography is the concept of place. As a result, place has numerous definitions, from the simple “a space or location with meaning” to the more complex “an area having unique physical and human characteristics interconnected with other places.” There are three key components of place: location, locale, and a sense of place. Location is the position of a particular point on the surface of the Earth. Locale is the physical setting for relationships between people, such as the South of France or the Smoky Mountains. Finally, a sense of place is the emotions someone attaches to an area based on their experiences. Place can be applied at any scale and does not necessarily have to be fixed in either time or space. Additionally, due to globalization, place can change over time as its physical setting and cultures are influenced by new ideas or technologies."


Local patterns that emerge through historical contingencies are a typical condition in the universe and, especially, on the planet Earth. Pattern of life depend on these local situations. As such, it is important to study place specificities, preserve them and design in reference to them.

Key Concepts and Issues

  • Need to account for the places of nonhumans
  • Need to decolonise and otherwise remove bias
  • Need to remove the bias towards the description/glorification of the past to consider how the concept of place fits the needs of the future

Place in Geography

Transition Design focuses on the need for ‘cosmopolitan localism’, (Manzini 2009; Sachs 1999) a lifestyle that is place-based and regional, yet global in its awareness and exchange of information and technology.

Tim Edensor

Place and Life

Biomes, Ecosystems, and Habitats | National Geographic Society


Niche is the role of a species in its environment including responses to resources, competitors, and predators.

  • As for the Habitat, biotic and abiotic factors define the niche.
  • However, a niche is the interactions of a population with these factors and its effects.
  • Niche is a part of the habitat. It describes what organisms do.
  • Niche depends on the flow of energy within an ecosystem.
  • If a niche is left vacant, it can then be filled by some other species. However, some organisms might create a unique niche for themselves, which reduces the competition for resources with other species.
  • However, it is also important for species to be able to adapt to changes in the ecosystem to protect themselves from extinction. For this reason, many species usually adapt or evolve to thrive under a wide range of environmental conditions.
  • The type and number of variables that define an ecological niche vary from species to species, and the relative importance of these variables may also vary according to the geographical and biotic contexts.
  • The full range of biotic and abiotic factors utilized by species for survival form the fundamental niche, and the factors that limit the population like competition and predations are called limiting factors.
  • Based on the interactions of species with the physical and biological world, niches are of three types; spatial or habitat niche, trophic niche, and multidimensional niche.
  • The spatial or habitat niche is the physical area within the habitat that a species occupies.
  • Trophic niche is the trophic level occupied by the species in the food chain or ecological chain.
  • The multidimensional niche consists of the concept of fundamental niche and the limiting factors.

For a contrast with the notion of habitat, see: Habitat vs Niche- Definition, 14 Major Differences, Examples (

Trappes, Rose. “Defining the Niche for Niche Construction: Evolutionary and Ecological Niches.” Biology & Philosophy 36, no. 3 (2021): 31.

For a discussion, see:

Polechová, Jitka, and David Storch. “Ecological Niche.” In Encyclopedia of Ecology, edited by Brian Fath, 2nd ed., 72–80. 2008. Reprint, Oxford: Elsevier, 2019.

Cf. ecotope: the smallest spatial object or component of a geographical landscape so defined for measurement and statistical modelling.

On the brief introduction to the evolution of the ecological niche, see:

Losos, Jonathan B., ed. The Princeton Guide to Evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.

Sultan, Sonia E. Organism and Environment: Ecological Development, Niche Construction, and Adaption. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Properties and the Measurement of Niches

Loke, Lynette H. L., and Ryan A. Chisholm. ‘Measuring Habitat Complexity and Spatial Heterogeneity in Ecology’. Ecology Letters, 2022.

The Ecological Niche of Humans

An article showing evidence of early, persistent and large-scale ecological changes emanating from the activities of Humans from The Late Pleistocene also known as Upper Pleistocene is currently defined as the time between c. 129,000 and c. 11,700 years ago.

Boivin, Nicole L., Melinda A. Zeder, Dorian Q. Fuller, Alison Crowther, Greger Larson, Jon M. Erlandson, Tim Denham, and Michael D. Petraglia. “Ecological Consequences of Human Niche Construction: Examining Long-Term Anthropogenic Shaping of Global Species Distributions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, no. 23 (2016): 6388–96.

For a comment on this article, see:

Ellis, Erle C., Peter J. Richerson, Alex Mesoudi, Jens-Christian Svenning, John Odling-Smee, and William R. Burnside. “Evolving the Human Niche.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, no. 31 (2016): E4436–E4436.

Dupré, John, and Daniel Nicholson. ‘A Manifesto for a Processual Philosophy of Biology’. In Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology, edited by Daniel J. Nicholson and John Dupré, 3–45. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Humans Engineering Niches

Shahab, Robert L., Simone Brethauer, Jeremy S. Luterbacher, and Michael H. Studer. ‘Engineering of Ecological Niches to Create Stable Artificial Consortia for Complex Biotransformations’. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 62 (2020): 129–36.

Description and Measurement

Needs to be in 3D

Gámez, Siria, and Nyeema C. Harris. ‘Conceptualizing the 3D Niche and Vertical Space Use’. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2022.

And as multi-dimensional hypervolumes.

Lu, Muyang, Kevin Winner, and Walter Jetz. ‘A Unifying Framework for Quantifying and Comparing N-Dimensional Hypervolumes’. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 12, no. 10 (2021): 1953–68.

Holt, Robert D. ‘Bringing the Hutchinsonian Niche into the 21st Century: Ecological and Evolutionary Perspectives’. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. Supplement 2 (2009): 19659–65.

Place is a combination of living beings that is sometimes opportunistic and often/always temporary.

"If you are familiar with a place, there is a sense of intrinsic correctness in its elements. While this sense is very strong, ecosystems are built piecemeal. The aggregations of species that produce a feeling of place also provide a sense of time. A community – the census of organisms from microbes to trees to giant herbivores – is a temporary association of living things that depends on evolutionary history, climate, geography and chance."

Halliday, Thomas. Otherlands: A World in the Making. London: Allen Lane, 2022.

Native (as in 'native species') as a term applies both to place and to time. So, it is only meaningful to speak about places as durations or event in time: stabilities, transitions, tendencies, incongruities. Refer to the long narratives (cf. The Universe Story)1 as the conceptual foundation for desirable human cultures.

Refer to niche partitioning as a place-forming tendency. Many species of penguin co-occured in Antarctica 40m years ago during the thermal maximum, 800 parts CO2, ocean 100m taller, lots of food, which is not ususal. Tipically, the niches of geographically co-ocurring speceis diverge, with life thus extending towards all potentially livable niches.

Thomas Halliday, Otherlands: A World in the Making (London: Allen Lane, 2022).

Place and Brain

Cf. 'environmental neuroscience' and the argument that brains develop in direct response to the environmental conditions.

Berman, Marc G., Omid Kardan, Hiroki P. Kotabe, Howard C. Nusbaum, and Sarah E. London. “The Promise of Environmental Neuroscience.” Nature Human Behaviour 3, no. 5 (2019): 414–17.


An outline following key issues


Edensor, Tim, Ares Kalandides, and Uma Kothari, eds. The Routledge Handbook of Place. Abingdon: Routledge, 2020.

Solastalgia and Homesickness

Hediger, Ryan. Homesickness: Of Trauma and the Longing for Place in a Changing Environment. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019.


  1. Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era—A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos (New York: HarperCollins, 1992).˄