Ecological factors are environmental elements that have an effect on organisms and contribute to their distinctive behavioral patterns. These causes create dynamic population or species shifts in a certain geographical location.
- Ecology is the biological discipline that studies the relationships between organisms and their environment.
- A fundamental objective of ecology is to chronicle and comprehend the effects of human actions that are altering the biosphere on life on Earth.
- To expose the fascinating facts regarding the interrelationship between living organisms and ecological elements, it is necessary to understand the many types of ecological variables.
- The dynamic change of a population in a particular environment is influenced by ecological factors. It is essential for humans to comprehend the various ecological elements. This page will provide comprehensive information regarding ecological factors.
Types of Ecological Factors
Abiotic elements are non-living components of an organism’s surroundings. A biotope is a habitat characterised by a certain collection of abiotic ecological features and homogeneous environmental circumstances. The following three categories of abiotic factors can be distinguished:
1. Edaphic Factor
It is an abiotic component associated with the physical or chemical makeup of the soil in a given place. The uppermost weathered layer of the Earth’s crust is soil. It is the result of interactions between parent rock, climate, living organisms, time, and terrain. The following soil characteristics affect the growth of several types of vegetation:
- The pH of the soil: Soil may be acidic, alkaline, or neutral based on its pH. The soil’s pH level impacts the availability of plant nutrients. The optimal soil for crop cultivation is loamy soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8.
- Soil Water: As one of the inorganic components required for photosynthesis, soil water is more significant than any other ecological aspect. The most essential form of accessible water for plants is capillary water retained between soil particles.
- Temperature of the Soil: Soil temperature is crucial in determining the geographical spread of plants. Low temperature reduces roots’ water consumption and solute absorption, and vice versa.
- Soil Atmosphere (soil air): The pores between soil particles hold a variety of gases. The majority of these gases are oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapour.
- Soil Organisms: Numerous creatures, such as bacteria, fungus, algae, protozoans, nematodes, insects, earthworms, etc., occupy the soil. They are known as soil organisms. These creatures contribute to soil aeration and nitrogen fixation, hence influencing plant growth. Additionally, soil organisms are affected by the soil’s other physical and chemical qualities.
2. Topographic Factor
These factors pertain to the Earth’s surface characteristics. Various regions’ climates are influenced by their topography. These variables include latitude, altitude, the mountain’s orientation, and its slope, among others.
- Latitudes and Altitudes: Latitudes indicate the distance away from the equator. Altitudes indicate the distance above sea level. These factors influence the temperature, wind speed, oxygen availability, and light intensity. Temperatures are highest near the equator and lowest at the poles. At high elevations, wind speed increases, air pressure and temperature fall, and light intensity and humidity increase. Due to these differences, the vegetation at different altitudes differs and exhibits diverse zonation.
- The Direction of Mountains: Different species of flora and fauna inhabit the north and south slopes of mountains due to differences in climate elements such as humidity, rainfall, light intensity, light duration, and temperature zones.
- The Steepness of the Mountains: The incline of the mountain impacts the rainfall in a particular place and permits the runoff of precipitation. The loss of hilly areas creates a lack of water and rapid erosion of the topsoil, resulting in poor plant life. In contrast, the plains are abundant in plants due to the sluggish drainage of surface water and increased water retention in the soil.
3. Climatic Factors
These are the abiotic variables that define the climate of a specific geographical region. The following are climate-related ecological factors:
- Temperature: Temperature determines the degree to which a certain place is hot or cold. Temperatures vary based on latitude. The temperature is highest in the equator and gradually lowers towards the poles. Due to the fact that temperature is responsible for a variety of enzymatic activities in living organisms, the biodiversity of different geographical regions (closer to the equator or poles) varies with the temperature gradient.
- Sunlight: The huge and natural source of energy on Earth is sunlight. Sunlight is utilised by plants for photosynthesis (conversion of solar energy into chemical energy). When herbivores consume plants and plant products, this energy is transferred to them. Likewise, a food chain consists of producers, herbivores, and carnivores. Plants’ photosynthesis, germination, and flowering are influenced by the intensity, quality, and length of sunshine. These qualities of light influence the hibernation period, migration, and reproduction of animals.
- Atmospheric Pressure: It is the pressure exerted on the surface of the Earth. This pressure fluctuates with altitude. Variations in air pressure influence the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide for respiration and photosynthesis, respectively. The amount of oxygen is greater at lower altitudes and diminishes progressively as height increases. Consequently, biodiversity at different altitudes is affected.
- The Humidity of Air: Humidity refers to the amount of atmospheric water vapour. It influences plant transpiration and mammalian perspiration. In turn, this impacts the distribution of plants and animals on Earth.
- Water: Water is essential to the survival of all species. Temperature regulation, osmoregulation, and other physiological processes require water. Rainfall is the primary water source on Earth. Rainfall is mostly determined by the area’s topography, wind speed and direction, and wind direction. When clouds strike the mountains, the hilly region receives the majority of the precipitation. In contrast, there is limited or no precipitation on the opposite side of the mountain range. The regions with adequate precipitation have epiphytes, while those with insufficient precipitation have xerophytic vegetation. Similarly, inhabitants of xerophytic environments have evolved to preserve and store water.
All living things comprise the ecosystem’s biotic components. There are three main groups: producers, consumers, and decomposers. Biotic variables consist of all living organisms interacting with one another and influencing their surroundings. Their interactions mostly revolve around food, space, reproduction, and defence, demonstrating their interdependence. These interactions between them can be roughly divided into two categories:
- Positive interactions
- Negative interactions
1. Positive Interactions
These are advantageous interactions. Positive encounters fall into the following categories:
- Mutualism: It is a relationship between two species that benefits both parties. Living in the root nodules of legumes, nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobium) display mutualism. In exchange for receiving nourishment from the host plant, the bacterium fixes air nitrogen and makes it available to plants. In obligatory mutualism, species are completely dependent on one another, and neither species can exist under natural conditions without the other, such as the algal and fungal components of lichens. The fungi protect the algae, while the algae supply nourishment for the fungi. In facultative mutualism, the species that interact are not strictly dependent on one another. A sea anemone, which attaches itself to the shell of a hermit crab, serves as an illustration. The sea anemone attaches to the crab’s back, giving camouflage and protection, and in exchange, the sea anemone is transferred to new food sources.
- Commensalism: It is a relationship between two species in which one species benefits while the other is neither hurt nor benefited. The species that benefits is referred to as the commensal, whereas the other species is known as the host. The relationship between suckerfish and sharks is an illustration of commensalism. Attached to the shark’s surface, the suckers distributed to locations with a better food source. In return, the shark receives no benefit from the suckers.
2. Negative Interactions
It is a relationship in which one species gains while the other suffers. The following classifications apply:
- Predation: Predation is the relationship between animals that involves the killing and consumption of prey. The species that eats another is known as the predator, while the species that is eaten is known as the prey. The relationship between herbivores and carnivores exemplifies predation interaction in a food chain. The capture of insects by pitcher plants exemplifies the prey-predator connection between plants and animals. The predators regulate the size of the prey population.
- Competition: Competition is the interaction between two species in which both incur negative effects or are injured. It occurs when there are insufficient resources for survival. Two fundamental types of competition exist: i. Interspecific Competition (competition between members of different species) ii. Intraspecific Competition (between individuals of the same species).
- Parasitism: It is a species interaction in which a normally small organism (the parasite) lives in or on a larger species (the host) in order to collect food. It also involves obtaining shelter in addition to food. On the basis of the host-parasite interaction, there are two types of parasites: holoparasites and hemiparasites. Holoparasites are total parasites that obtain all of their sustenance from the host. Cuscuta is a whole stem parasite of Acacia, its host plant. Hemiparasites are creatures that obtain just water and minerals from their host plant while synthesising their own food through photosynthesis. They are referred to as partial parasites.
- Ammensalism: It is an encounter in which no species is injured nor benefiting. The inhibition is caused by the excretion of molecules known as allelopathic compounds. Antibiosis is also known as amensalism. Penicillium notatum is responsible for the production of penicillin, which inhibits the growth of numerous types of bacteria.
Significance of Ecological Factors
Following are the relevance of ecological factors:
- Different habitats’ ecological features aid in the development of mathematical models that describe the interplay of parameters and forecast their consequences.
- There is a connection between ecological variables and the evolutionary development of species.
- Adaptation refers to the unique traits of plants and animals that enable them to thrive under the prevailing set of environmental conditions. In organisms’ morphological, physiological, and behavioural adaptations to their environment, ecological factors play a crucial role.