Definition of Abiotic Factors
- The name “abiotic” is derived from the prefix “a-,” which means “without,” and the suffix “-bio,” which means “life.” The “biotic elements” of an ecosystem are its living components.
- In biology and ecology, abiotic components or abiotic factors are nonliving chemical and physical aspects of the environment that have an effect on living species and ecosystem function.
- Abiotic variables and the phenomena connected with them support all of biology. They affect a variety of species, including marine and terrestrial animals, in all environmental circumstances.
- We humans can create or modify abiotic environmental elements. For example, fertilisers can impact snail habitats, while human-produced greenhouse gases can alter marine pH levels.
- Abiotic factors include physical environments and nonliving resources that influence the growth, maintenance, and reproduction of living organisms.
- Resources are characterised as substances or items in the environment that are required by one creature and eaten or otherwise rendered inaccessible to other organisms.
- Components of a substance degrade through chemical or physical processes, such as hydrolysis. Abiotic components are all non-living elements of an ecosystem, such as atmospheric conditions and water resources.
- Abiotic variables in biology may consist of water, light, radiation, temperature, humidity, atmosphere, acidity, and soil.
- The macroclimate frequently effects each of the aforementioned. Additionally, pressure and sound waves may be considered in marine or subterranean environments. In ocean habitats, abiotic elements include include aerial exposure, substrate, water clarity, sun radiation, and tides.
- C3 plants lack methods to control photorespiration, but C4 and CAM plants use a distinct PEP Carboxylase enzyme to limit photorespiration, hence improving the yield of photosynthetic processes in certain high-energy situations.
- Due to their specialisation in extreme settings, numerous Archea necessitate extremely high temperatures, pressures, or concentrations of chemical compounds such as sulphur.
- In addition, fungus have developed to thrive in their environment’s temperature, humidity, and stability.
- For instance, temperate rain forests and deserts have very different water and humidity accessibility. This disparity in water availability results in a variety of creatures surviving in different regions. These differences in abiotic components influence the species present by establishing limits on which species can live in the environment and by affecting competition between species.
- Abiotic conditions such as salinity can confer a competitive advantage on one species over another, hence generating selective pressures that result in the speciation and evolution of generalist and specialist rivals.
Types of Abiotic Components
- The average atmospheric temperature at the Earth’s surface ranges from -50°C to 50°C (-60°F to 120°F), with the bulk of life thriving at more comfortable temperatures in the middle range.
- Radiation from the Sun and the absorption of radiation by the Earth’s surface and atmosphere combine to define the temperature at any particular point.
- The remainder is either absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or escapes the Earth’s atmosphere.
- The influence of sunlight on the earth’s temperature is regulated by sunlight. Because the intensity of sunlight varies by location, the temperature zone differs in various places of the planet.
- Earth’s temperature zones consist of tropical, subtropical, temperate, and alpine regions. Any increase or reduction in the intensity of sunshine affects the temperature in various zones.
- All biological creatures have a certain level of temperature tolerance. The bulk of organisms cannot endure temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius or above 45 degrees Celsius.
- Outside of this range, organisms must acquire physiological and behavioural adaptations to endure severe temperatures.
- For instance, a penguin from the frigid regions cannot survive in desert climates. The climate would be too warm for them to survive, as their bodies are adapted to survive in cold climates. Their enormous layers of fat and fur serve as insulation against the cold.
- Consequently, the temperature of a region determines whether plants and animals may survive there. Temperatures in the air and water influence the distribution of plants, birds, animals, and humans in the natural world.
Animal adaptations for winter
Some species acquire resistance to intense winter cold in order to survive. While others relocate to new habitats Some individuals hibernate or undergo winter slumber.
- Existing organisms in polar locations have already adapted to the intense cold. They have a substantial amount of feathers, fur, and fat on their bodies. Their oily covering aids in preventing heat loss.
- Then, birds, fish, and reindeer hibernate in warmer regions throughout the winter.
- The third approach is migration, in which a group of animals moves from one site to another.
Animal adaptations for summer
In hot springs, mobile species such as frogs, insects, reptiles, and mammals experience aestivation. The majority of the day, snakes, frogs, etc. dwell in burrows or sleep in dark, shaded regions. Consequently, these organisms become active when the temperature decreases.
- Bats, owls, cockroaches, etc., are nocturnal creatures that are active at night.
- Balbacus, bobcats, bats, and other auroral creatures are particularly active at dawn or dusk.
- At nightfall, flies, moths, some bats, and owls are vespertine creatures.
- Plants respond to fluctuations in temperature by adjusting to cold or warm circumstances. They have thick bark and cuticles. Some plants have thick, hairy leaves. They contain compounds like as mucin and tannins that enhance disease protection.
Microorganisms are categorised by temperature as psychrophiles, mesophiles, thermophiles, thermotolerant, and extremophiles. The rate of metabolic responses is dependent on temperature.
Additionally, it influences several enzyme-catalyzed processes. Enzymes denature at higher temperatures, yet some enzymes are thermostable. For instance, Taq polymerase from the bacteria Thermus aquaticus is resistant to higher temperatures.
- Its chemical composition is (H2O).
- All living organisms depend on water for survival. During long runs, we typically feel parched. Your body is indicating that you need to drink water.
- Water connects all ecosystems on Earth. It is regenerated by the hydrological cycle. Oceans contain the majority of the water on Earth. However, air helps transform liquid water into ice and vapour.
- The sun’s heat causes the surface water to evaporate into water vapour. The water vapours then reach an atmospheric level where the temperature drops. They eventually condense into clouds.
- When cloud precipitation rises, the cloud’s water vapour condenses into big water droplets. Clouds eventually return water to the ground as rain, snow, or sleet. This process restocks many streams.
- Water is an essential abiotic component that constitutes about 50–70% of all living creatures. 71% of the planet’s surface is covered by precipitation as rain and snow.
- Depending on the water level, there are two distinct ways for creatures to live in an ecosystem.
- Only creatures with little or minimal water requirements may thrive in a dry environment.
- On the other hand, marine organisms and aquatic plants flourish in a habitat with abundant water.
- The sort of organisms adapted to a certain ecosystem is determined by the amount of water present in that area. For instance, desert-dwelling animals are adapted to a lack of water and flora.
Importance in Ecosystem
Water has numerous functions in the ecosystem, some of which are listed below:
- Water is essential because all living species contain suitable amounts of water in their bodies.
- Water is required for numerous processes, including seed germination, nutrient absorption, food assimilation, digestion, and elimination. All of these chemical reactions require water as a solvent.
- Water aids in the dispersion of plant species because it is one of the means through which seeds are dispersed.
- It offers habitats to aquatic organisms.
- Water serves as a temporary habitat for the reproduction of several amphibians, insects, etc.
- Water is a universal solvent that readily dissolves gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. It contains dissolved salts and minerals that are essential for the survival of plants and animals.
- Significant abiotic factor is soil. It is made of rocks and decaying plant and animal materials. Depending on its composition, various types of soil serve different purposes. Due to this, a collection of plants and animals inhabit a particular area.
- The texture and makeup of the soil dictate how much water it can hold. The soil’s water nourishes crops and sustains the soil’s organic matter. Tiny root hairs absorb water and minerals from the soil for plants.
- The amount of oxygen and water trapped in soil pores is also determined by the porosity of the soil. This element is crucial for the transport of air, water, and nutrients to plants.
- Therefore, plants rely heavily on soil for their growth requirements. Soil is an important abiotic element that provides all of the necessary mineral nutrients for plant growth.
- A soil rhizosphere is a zone next to a plant’s root that is inhabited by a distinct population of microorganisms that promote plant growth.
- The dead or decomposed remains of plants and animals found in soil humus make the soil fruitful. Fertile soil is nutrient-rich and conducive to plant growth. Fertile soils contribute to food security, high agricultural output, and economic growth.
Importance in Ecosystem
- Soil provides plants and microbes with vital minerals and nutrients, hence serving as a home.
- It helps recycle carbon and nutrients.
- Surface water is filtered by soil particles into groundwater.
- Soils are the digestive organs that break down all recyclable trash in the environment.
- Without air, life on earth would be impossible because everyone needs air to breathe. Air is a mixture of gases, specifically 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen.
- It also contains trace amounts of carbon dioxide (0.03%), argon (0.3%), water vapour, and particles of dust. We will now discuss the ecosystem services provided by air.
Importance in Ecosystem
a. Air and the Carbon Cycle
- Carbon is also recycled with the assistance of air. Carbon is derived from the combustion of fossil fuels, respiration, and the breakdown of organic materials.
- Animals and humans exhale carbon dioxide into the air during respiration. During photosynthesis, plants utilise the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to support life. As a result, plants produce oxygen as a byproduct, which we utilise to breathe.
- Animals that consume plant-based meals absorb carbon and provide the energy necessary for survival. Carbon finally returns to the atmosphere through the decay of organic matter.
b. Air to breath
- Animals, birds, and humans utilise atmospheric oxygen to convert food into energy and heat.
- Moreover, all species require oxygen for respiration. also utilised during combustion is oxygen (burning).
c. Air as Protective Blanket
- When there is a high concentration of greenhouse gases, the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs more heat. Global warming is caused by a high concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
- The stratosphere in the earth’s atmosphere shields humans and other vulnerable species from UV radiation.
- UV radiation on the skin can trigger genetic mutations and the development of malignant cells. The ozone layer in the stratosphere serves as a shield for the earth’s inhabitants.
- Microorganisms in the soil convert nitrates in the soil to atmospheric nitrogen in the environment. Plants absorb nitrogen in order to produce proteins that plant cells require for growth. Reduced nitrogen availability reduces crop production.
- However, excessive nitrogen can be harmful to plants and the environment.
- It is a crucial abiotic component because it is the ultimate source of energy. Sunlight and heat are provided by the sun. We also know that plants require sunlight for photosynthesis, the process through which they convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and food.
- In our ecosystem, plants function as main producers, providing food for numerous herbivores (cows, goats etc.). And the oxygen they provide is essential for the organisms’ respiration or breathing.
- Consequently, green plants can convert solar energy into chemical energy. Through the food chain in nature, other living organisms absorb the chemical energy stored in the food produced by plants.
- Therefore, there is no error in stating that plants could not survive without the sun. Similarly, neither animals nor humans could survive without plants!
Importance in Ecosystem
- Light also affects the migration patterns of fish, birds, mammals, and reptiles, among others.
- The presence of light effects plant and animal behaviour in numerous ways.
- Light stimulates stomatal opening and shutting, seed germination, flowering, and plant movement.
- The light also controls the locomotion, sleeping, and eating habits of animals. The presence of sunshine stimulates birds’ gonads and annual reproduction.
- Certain animals are influenced by sunlight in their behaviour. The majority of animals that are active during the day are known as diurnal creatures. In contrast, animals such as owls, bats, and earthworms that are active at night are known as nocturnal animals.
- Changes in pH can also have an effect on biological organisms.
- Due to the increase in carbon dioxide, there is an increase in acidity in certain regions of the planet. It has produced an acidic environment.
- Urbanization and industrial development are the leading factors. Due to the increase in acidity, it has been discovered that the snail’s shell has also dissolved.
- Additionally, coral cannot survive in an acidic environment.
- In the human body, stomach acid aids in the destruction of pathogenic microorganisms.
- However, Helicobacter pylori possesses a urease enzyme. It raises the pH so that it can survive in the environment. It is the agent responsible for peptic ulcers.
- The vagina has a somewhat acidic pH. It is maintained by lactobacilli to prevent the colonisation of infections.
7. Air Humidity
- Air humidity indicates the existence of water vapour.
- An excessively humid atmosphere can be harmful to the organisms.
- In numerous ways, excessive water can affect the internal balance of organisms. pH changes may also occur.
- Plants, animals, and microorganisms each have their unique techniques to combat this. In animals, the lungs and kidneys assist remove excess water.
- As we ascend to a higher height, the temperature decreases. It is also related to the decrease in partial pressure as altitude increases.
- The ambient partial pressure decreases by 20% at 2 km and by nearly 50% at 6 km.
- At locations where wind blows frequently, plants vary slightly. They grow closer to the earth in order to avoid the severe wind.
- Additionally, some plants may utilise it for their own purposes, such as pollination. The dispersal of seed is possible.
- The amount of salt in an environment can be a significant factor in determining its composition.
- In areas where salt is prevalent, such as marine and coastal ecosystems, only organisms with adaptations for salt tolerance will be discovered.
Human Activity Affecting the Ecosystem
In the United Kingdom, there were two varieties of moths at the beginning of the 19th century. Common at the time was the white-bodied peppered moth, whose black-speckled white body allowed it to blend in with tree bark and avoid being eaten by birds. During the Industrial Revolution, however, coal-burning companies produced large quantities of ash, which landed on tree barks. Consequently, the white-bodied moths could now be distinguished from the black tree trunks. On the other hand, the rare black-bodied moths could now conceal themselves more efficiently.
Later, it was determined that black-bodied moths were prevalent near industrial regions, whereas white-bodied moths were confined to soot-free forests and rural areas.
Responses to Abiotic Factors
In diverse ways, living creatures respond to abiotic components. Included on this list of abiotic variables are:
- Regulators: Homeostasis is the ability of all organisms to maintain a steady internal environment. These species maintain a steady body temperature and osmotic concentration by regulating homeostasis through physiological and behavioural processes. The average body temperature of a human is 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to maintain homeostasis, they perspire during the summer and shiver during the winter.
- Conformers: These organisms are incapable of regulating their internal body conditions, and their body condition varies according to their environment.
- Migrate: When the weather in their habitat becomes difficult for these species, they migrate to a location with less stressful conditions. Siberian birds, for instance, migrate from this region to Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan.
Suspend: Numerous organisms have diverse bodily strategies for surviving in hostile environments. There are numerous instances of this kind of response. These include:
- Sporulation: Organisms create spores with strong walls that help them survive in unfavourable environments. When environmental conditions return to normal, spores germinate. Certain species of bacteria, fungus, and lower plants exhibit this type of response.
- Dormancy: In order to survive periods of stress, seeds of higher plants limit their metabolic activity and enter a dormant state. Under optimal conditions, a dormant seed germinates and grows into a new plant.
- Hibernation and aestivation: If organisms cannot move, they avoid stressful situations by retreating to a location where they hibernate throughout the winter. This is known as hibernation. A organism or animal that sleeps throughout the summer is said to aestivate. For instance, bears sleep during the winter and snails during the summer.
- Diapause: This is a natural process noticed in a particular animal. It retards the development of these animals by altering their metabolic activity. Diapause is prevalent in parasites, crabs, shellfish, snail insects, and certain zooplankton species.
Abiotic Factors Examples in Different Ecosystems
Desert Abiotic Factors
- The desert is perhaps the most visible biome determined by abiotic causes. Deserts create ecosystems that are vastly unique from those of any other habitat due to their limited precipitation.
- Scientists use the term “desert” to describe any region that receives less than 25 centimetres (9.75 inches) of rain or snow annually on average. According to this definition, deserts cover around 20% of Earth’s land area, including Antarctica.
- Since open water and water vapour operate as temperature-stabilizing components in wetter biomes, desert ecosystems can also undergo significant temperature fluctuations.
- Due to the lack of precipitation and frequently harsh temperatures, deserts are home to unusual creatures and food chains.
Tropical Rainforest Abiotic Factors
- Tropical rainforests, on the other hand, are one of the wettest ecosystems on Earth. To qualify as a rainforest, an area must get at least 190 centimetres (75 inches) of precipitation annually. The majority of rainforests receive well over 100 inches (254 cm) of precipitation yearly.
- Tropical rainforests are rainforests found in tropical regions. The tropics form a band around the equator and get an abundance of sunlight year-round, resulting in year-round warmth and mild seasons.
- Due to their warm and moist temperatures, rainforests create dense, lush, and intricate ecosystems. Rainforests are remarkable in that they are composed of life stacked upon life. The majority of scientists classify tropical rainforests into six distinct strata, each of which is home to distinct forms of life!
- The “canopy” — the uppermost layer of a rainforest – receives the most sunshine, whereas the lower layers receive relatively little sunlight due to the shade cast by the other layers’ plants. This has an effect on the species that can flourish in these layers.
Tundra Abiotic Factors
- The tundra is another unique biome formed by abiotic processes.
- In the north polar area, where they receive very little sunlight and heat, tundras are found. Consequently, just a thin layer of the soil’s surface thaws sufficiently to support plant growth. Subsoil is a deep layer of soil that can remain frozen for thousands of years.
- Due to the frozen subsurface, trees (which require deep roots) are unable to grow in the tundra. Instead, grasses and other tiny plants that can grow in the soil’s poor conditions thrive.
Abiotic Factors in the Ocean
- There are distinct abiotic factors in the ocean. Notably, salt is present in the ocean. It also possesses depth, which influences the quantity of sunshine that marine life receives.
- The salinity of the ocean is essential for its inhabitants. To prevent the ocean’s salt from upsetting their biochemistry, all organisms must adapt. Because saltwater would dry them, dolphins that swim in the ocean obtain all of their water needs from their prey. Some fish can only thrive in saltwater because they have adapted to their environment so well.
- The ocean, like the rainforest, contains a variety of zones that get varying levels of sunlight and support a wide variety of life forms. This is due to the fact that water itself both reflects and absorbs sunlight.
- The epipelagic zone, the uppermost region of the ocean, receives an abundance of sunshine. This is the location of photosynthetic marine life, such as coral and seaweed.
- In contrast, the abyssopelagic zone at the ocean floor receives very no sunshine. This region of the ocean is inhabited by bizarre marine organisms, some of which cannot survive at the surface because their body structures are dependent on the high water pressure at depth.
- The extremely deep ocean trenches feature an even colder, darker zone known as the “hadopelagic,” named after the Greek underworld.
- As a result of these abiotic variables, several ocean ecosystems exist, including coastal ecosystems, coral reef ecosystems, and deep ocean ecosystems.
Abiotic Factors in Other Ecosystems
The abiotic components of an ecosystem are responsible for its growth, reproduction, and maintenance. Each environment has its own abiotic components.
- Abiotic factors in the forest: A forest is a large area full of trees. There are tropical rainforests, temperate forests, and boreal (Taiga) forests. Abiotic factors include things like temperature, light, water, wind or water currents, soil type, and the availability of nutrients.
- Abiotic factors in savanna: Savana has small trees and grasses that don’t grow together to make a close canopy. In the savanna, there is a lot of energy from the sun and fires, but there isn’t much rain. In a savanna, grazing animals, predators, trees with bushes and tall trees, and fungi that break down dead matter are all things that make it hard for plants to grow.
- Coral reef abiotic factors: The coral reef is an ecosystem that lives in the water and is made up of corals that build the reef. Coral can’t live in water with too few salts or in water that is too cold. In coral reefs, trash or pollution, rocks, minerals, and other things that aren’t living make up the non-living parts of their ecosystem.
- Abiotic factors in grasslands: Grassland is a place where big patches of grass make up most of the plants. Abiotic factors in grasslands include climate, soil, topography, and natural disturbances. Rainfall also plays a big role in deciding what kinds of plants and trees grow there.
- Abiotic factors in freshwater: Some of the most important abiotic factors in lotic (river) and lentic (lakes and ponds) ecosystems are light, temperature, substrate, water chemistry, and flow. For example, the way a pond is divided up depends on how much light it gets. Figure 5 shows that a pond has a littoral zone, which is well-lit, a limnetic zone, which is not fully lit, and a benthic zone, which is dark (bottom). The nearby forests could also change the chemistry of the water because the soil could wash away and end up in the fresh water.
Human activity: pollution and the peppered moth
Human activity is not a natural abiotic factor; instead, it is something that people do. It talks about how pollution, trash, and drainage affect the environment. Most studies have already shown that human activity has bad effects, and efforts are being made to reduce these effects, especially in the global ecology (e.g., effects caused by land-use change that are caused by humans).
Some of these organisms have been used as indicator species, which is a species that shows how the habitat is doing, for a long time. One example of this is the peppered moth, which can be used to predict how polluted a certain environment will be in the coming decades.
- If there are more of these moths, it could mean that the air is a little bit dirty.
- If you don’t see as many light-peppered moths, it could mean that pollution is starting to build up in the area.
- If the dark peppered moth is seen more often, it could mean that pollution is high in the area.
Things to Remember
- Depending on the environment, the abiotic factors may change. In subterranean or marine environments, for example, abiotic factors include sound waves and pressure.
- Abiotic factors can also include things that make life harder, like extreme temperatures, strong winds, or pollution.
- People’s actions now play a big role in figuring out what kinds of life can live in an ecosystem.
- When the non-living parts of an environment aren’t good, a living thing will use different ways to deal with the stress.
What are abiotic factors?
Abiotic factors refer to non-living components of an ecosystem that can influence the organisms living within it.
What are examples of abiotic factors?
Examples of abiotic factors include temperature, sunlight, water availability, soil composition, pH levels, air quality, wind speed, and humidity.
How do abiotic factors affect organisms?
Abiotic factors directly or indirectly impact the survival, growth, and distribution of organisms. They can influence physiological processes, behavior, reproductive patterns, and species interactions.
Can abiotic factors change over time?
Yes, abiotic factors can change both spatially and temporally. Factors such as seasonal variations, climate change, natural disasters, and human activities can cause fluctuations in abiotic conditions.
Are abiotic factors interrelated?
Abiotic factors are interconnected and can have cascading effects on one another. For example, changes in temperature can affect water availability, which in turn affects plant growth and subsequently impacts the availability of food and shelter for other organisms.
How do abiotic factors influence ecosystem dynamics?
Abiotic factors play a crucial role in shaping the structure and functioning of ecosystems. They determine the types of organisms that can survive in a particular environment and influence energy flow, nutrient cycling, and species diversity.
Can organisms adapt to abiotic factors?
Organisms have the ability to adapt to certain abiotic factors through physiological, behavioral, or evolutionary mechanisms. This adaptation allows them to survive and thrive in their specific environments.
Can abiotic factors limit the distribution of species?
Yes, abiotic factors can act as limiting factors that restrict the geographic range of species. For example, certain plants may only be able to grow within a specific temperature range or soil pH level.
How do abiotic factors influence ecological succession?
Abiotic factors play a critical role in initiating and shaping ecological succession. The availability of resources, such as light and water, can determine the types of species that colonize an area during primary succession and influence the pace of succession.
Can human activities impact abiotic factors?
Yes, human activities such as deforestation, pollution, climate change, and land use changes can significantly alter abiotic factors. These anthropogenic influences can disrupt natural ecosystems and have far-reaching consequences for biodiversity and ecological processes.