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Abiotic factors: what are they, characteristics and examples

Abiotic factors are the structure on which ecosystems are built. There are physical abiotic factors and chemical abiotic factors and they do not have life, but they characterize the territory and shape the communities present, their combination being more or less favorable for the survival of certain species. In turn, they are disturbed and modified by living things. Abiotic and biotic factors and the relationships that exist between them constitute ecosystems.

To know the importance of abiotic factors or abiotic elements in the survival strategies of species and in the conservation of our planet, consult this interesting AgroCorrn article. Here we talk about what are abiotic factors, their characteristics and examples of these.

What are abiotic factors

The abiotic factors of an ecosystem are all the components that determine the physical space or biotope in which the biocenosis develops; that is, where living beings live, feed, interact and reproduce.

There are different types of abiotic factors or abiotic elements . These can be geographic or topographic (latitude, longitude, altitude, orientation, slope …), climatic (temperature, sunlight, relative humidity, wind, atmospheric pressure, precipitation, concentration of suspended particles …), edaphic (composition and structure of the soil) and chemical (components of air, water and soil).

Together with living organisms and their interactions in the environment, these factors constitute a key element in the configuration of ecosystems. In the set of ecosystems ( biosphere ), it is possible to identify three different types of environments: terrestrial, freshwater (coastal zone, marshes, estuaries, rivers …) and marine, based on the configuration of abiotic factors.

We advise you to expand the information with these other AgroCorrn articles on What is the biotope and examples , What is the biocenosis and examples and the Difference and relationship between biotope and biocenosis with examples . In addition, we also recommend this other article about the Difference between biotic and abiotic to understand this topic even better.

Characteristics of abiotic factors

Here are some of the most important characteristics of abiotic factors :

  • They have no life.
  • Its nature can be natural (eg: water) or artificial (eg: plastics).
  • They are limiting, since they influence the growth and expansion of organisms.
  • The specific combination of abiotic factors determines the species of flora and fauna that inhabit the different natural spaces.
  • They are modified by living beings.
  • These combinations and alterations are responsible for the various adaptations that organisms incorporate.

Examples of abiotic factors

Here are some examples of abiotic factors :

  • Forests are very important for the services and goods they provide. Its distribution is subject to abiotic factors of a topographic type. For example, the taiga or boreal forest , located between 50ºN and 60ºN latitude, has temperatures in winter close to 20ºC and around -30ºC in winter.
  • The humid tropical forests are located around 10ºN and 10ºS, where temperatures are much higher (25-27 ºC). The conditions in both cases are different, so so is the flora and fauna itself. In addition to temperature, soils, light intensity and relative humidity are also abiotic factors of the tropical forest .
  • Deserts are shaped by extreme abiotic factors. For example, among the abiotic factors of the desert we see that water and sunlight are determining elements. The vegetation is adapted to the scarcity of water. In fact, most plants are CAM, that is, they carry out photosynthesis different from other plants (C3).
  • Among the abiotic factors of the jungle, sunlight, humidity, temperature and the sky stand out. These ecosystems are highly exposed to solar radiation . In order to avoid the loss of water, the plants have very small leaves, except in low areas of the forests where the leaves are large to capture more light, since they reach less than the higher parts. This adaptation is an example of how these conditions influence biocenosis.
  • In aquatic ecosystems , we can say that among the aquatic abiotic factors we see that temperature also plays a key role. With climate change, the surface temperature of seas and oceans is increasing, causing changes in the distribution patterns of marine species.
  • In coastal areas, human activities have increased the turbidity of the water. This means that species that depend on good lighting, such as Posidonia oceanica, are currently under the Special Protection Regime.
  • Coastal wetlands are one of the aquatic ecosystems most vulnerable to changes in physical-chemical factors. An example of this are the changes in salinity that have turned the Albufera de València into a sweet lake, despite its saline origins.
  • Dissolved oxygen in water is essential for life. Its concentration not only depends on the production and consumption processes, but the interaction with other abiotic factors, such as temperature, causes variations, affecting the fauna and flora of these ecosystems.
  • In the cold deserts of the polar regions, temperature, sunlight and rainfall are very important terrestrial abiotic factors. The shortage of daylight hours, the lack of rainfall and low temperatures make plant life forms simple and scarce (moss, lichens …).
  • Air is an important abiotic factor, as it refers to the set of gases present in the atmosphere. The composition of the atmosphere allows life on the planet. However, human beings, with the emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG), are altering it, causing global warming.

Below you will see images of some of the examples of biotic factors and at the end, you will find a short video about what they are and what is the difference between biotic and abiotic factors.

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