What are the abiotic factors?

What Does Abiotic factors Mean

We explain what abiotic factors are, both physical and chemical, in an ecosystem. Difference with biotics, examples.

Soils are part of the abiotic components of an ecosystem.

What are the abiotic factors?

Abiotic factors are all those elements of a physical or chemical nature that intervene in the characterization of a certain biotope or ecosystem . They are distinguished from biotic factors in that they do not have to do with life or living beings , but with inanimate and environmental factors, such as climate , water, light , temperature or the nature of the soils .

The term abiotic is used in biology and ecology to designate everything that is not part of organic life as we know it. These elements present in the environment are also called inert factors, such as geological or geographical.

A given ecosystem is made up of the sum of these two types of factors: biotic (contemplated in the biocenosis ) and abiotic (contemplated in the biotope ). The interaction between both types of factors lies in the fact that abiotics shape the course of biotic evolution. This occurs through processes of adaptation or natural selection . On the other hand, biotic factors also alter the nature of abiotic ones.

For example: The salinity level of sea waters can affect the creatures that inhabit it, allowing those capable of adapting to proliferate. On the other hand, those that are not able to adapt to changes in salinity levels will migrate to other regions or become extinct.

Similarly, the proliferation of certain types of microorganisms can increase or decrease the concentration of certain substances in the waters, modifying their chemical constitution.

It can help you: Climate change

Physical abiotic factors

Sunlight is the planet's main natural source of energy.

Abiotic factors of a physical nature are those related to the forces that act on ecosystems on Earth, for example:

  • Sunlight . The main natural source of energy on the planet is sunlight. This is a form of electromagnetic emission oflight (visible), infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) waves , which affect the temperature of large masses of water, air and land, which heat up and expand during the day, and cool and contract at night.
  • Temperature . The temperature levels of any medium, whether aquatic, gaseous or terrestrial, affect the possible development of life and the type of relationships of a biotope. For example, in frozen Arctic regions, life is scarcer and adapted to cold, as water freezes and forms large chunks of ice or permafrost (frozen soil) for much of the year.
  • Atmospheric pressure. The pressure exerted by the mass of gas in the atmosphere on the different elements of an ecosystem is also a determining factor for its development. For example, the pressure that water exerts on the creatures that inhabit marine niches is immense, much greater than that which exists on the surface.
  • The weather . The climatic region in which an ecosystem is located has great relevance in the processes that occur within it. If the region is warm and tropical, for example, there will be an abundant margin of precipitation, therefore high humidity and great plant growth. In contrast, in the desert regions plant life is scarce, due to the oppressive heat .
  • The relief . Another important physical abiotic factor is the relief of the region, since the height affects both the temperature and the atmospheric pressure (the higher the altitude, the lower the pressure and the lower temperature).

Chemical abiotic factors

Chemical abiotic factors, on the other hand, have to do with the constitution of matter and the different reactions that take place with it within a given ecosystem. Some may be:

  • pH . PH is a chemical property of media, such as water or soil. This factor makes it possible to determine its level of acidity or alkalinity, that is, the amountof hydrogen ions dissolved in the different media. A very acidic or very alkaline medium is corrosive and, therefore, unfavorable for the development of organic life.
  • Soil chemistry . The amount and type of chemical elements that predominate in a type of soil are decisive when it comes to explaining properties such as fertility and water absorption.
  • Air chemistry . Life and most biotic processes have to do with gas exchange . For example, in the breathing animals taken it produces oxygen and CO 2 , while the photosynthesis of plants opposite occurs. Therefore, the characteristics of the air can facilitate or impede the development of an ecosystem, or subject it to specific conditions.
  • Water chemistry . Elements such as salinity, the concentration of nutrients or oxygen and the eventual pollutants determine the quality of the water to maintain life and, therefore, the type of ecosystem that takes place in it.

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