Introduction to Abiotic Components

Abiotic components or abiotic factors are nonliving factors that impact an ecosystem. These factors are part of the ecosystem and influence the associated living things but they are not living. The term abiotic is a mix of two words, these are a- which means without, and bio which means life.


What are the types of Abiotic Components?

There are five different types of abiotic Components. These are:


1. Temperature

A rise in temperature can change the development of an animal, can cause changes in metabolic activity, and much more. All organisms can tolerate a certain range of temperature and how extreme temperatures lead to stressful conditions.


2. Water

Water covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface in one form or the other. Compared to that, living organisms require a small amount of water to live. Water is critical to survival.


3. Atmosphere

The atmosphere has important components like oxygen and carbon dioxide, which animals and plants breathe to live and combine to produce carbohydrates, other organic materials, parts of DNS, and proteins. 


4. Sunlight

Sunlight is one of the most important abiotic factors and is the primary source of energy. Plants require it for photosynthesis. 


5. Chemical Elements

Chemical elements play a major role within the environment to influence the type of organisms which can grow or thrive in an area. The chemical composition, including pH level, has a huge impact on the plants of an area. For example, plants like azaleas thrive in acidic soils. Some elements, like zinc and copper, are important micronutrients for the development of many organisms. 


6. Soil

Soil is a critical abiotic factor. It is composed of rocks as well as decomposed plants and animals. 


7. Wind

The wind direction and speed in an area affect its temperature and humidity. Very high wind speeds, often in mountainous areas, can be the reason behind stunted plant growth. Wind also carries seeds and aids in pollination.  


Examples of Abiotic Components

  • Wind

  • Humidity

  • Salinity

  • Rain

  • Temperature

  • Latitude 

  • Elevation

  • Radiation

  • Pollution


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Types of Ecosystems Based on Abiotic Factors

Based on abiotic factors, there are several types of ecosystems. 

 

We will discuss the abiotic factors of these ecosystems in the following:


  • Desert Abiotic Factors: Due to low rainfall, deserts develop ecosystems that are very distinguishable from other environments. IT covers 20% of the earth’s surface and that includes Antarctica. Extreme temperature swings are often observed in deserts as open-air and water vapour stabilise the temperature.

  • Tropical Rainforest Abiotic Factors: Tropical rain forests see the most rainfall on earth. Most rainforests have more than 100 inches of rain every year. It has warm and wet climates and the rainforests create a dense, lush, and complex ecosystem.

  • Tundra Abiotic Factors: The tundra region receives less light and heat from the sun. A deep layer of soil called the subsoil is observed. And it can remain frozen for many years.  Only grasses and small plants grow in this region.

  • Ocean Abiotic Factors: The abiotic factors which play a part in the ocean’s environment are salinity, heat, pollution, and many more. It is a truly unique environment. Because of its depth, the different zones receive a different amount of sunlight and heat.  This creates a different ecosystem in each layer and it has its unique share of animals. The different ocean ecosystems are coral reef ecosystems, shoreline ecosystems, deep ocean ecosystems, etc.


Other Ranges of Ecosystems 

  • Temperate Forests: Abiotic factors include temperature, humidity, etc.

  • Freshwater Ecosystems: The biotic factors are: light penetration, temperature, and pH of water. Examples are lakes, springs 

  • Grasslands: As the name says, this type of ecosystem is dominated by grass. The major abiotic factor is rainfall

  • Taiga Ecosystems: It is the coldest region of the arctic. There is a presence of evergreen trees and you can notice mosses and mushrooms. 


Responses to Abiotic Factors

Living organisms respond to abiotic components in various ways. This list of abiotic factors include:


1.Regulators: All organisms can maintain a constant internal environment called homeostasis. The organisms which can do this regulate homeostasis by physiological and behavioural means and it ensures constant body temperature and osmotic concentration. Humans maintain body temperature at 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit. They maintain homeostasis by sweating in the summer and shivering in the winter.


2.Conformers: These are organisms that cannot regulate internal body conditions, and their body condition changes as per the environment. 


3.Migrate: For these organisms, when the weather in their habitat transforms into a stressful condition, they move to a habitat that has less stressful conditions. For example, Siberian birds fly from that region to Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan.


4.Suspend: Many organisms have different body mechanisms to survive in a stressful environment. There are many examples of this type of response. These are:


  • Sporulation: Organisms produce thick-walled spores which help the organism to survive unfavourable conditions. When the conditions return to normal, the spore germinates. This type of response can be seen in certain types of bacteria, fungi, and lower plants.

  • Dormancy: To survive periods of stress, seeds of higher plants reduce their metabolic activity and go into a state of dormancy. Under favourable conditions, the dormant seed germinates to grow to a new plant.

  • Hibernation and aestivation: If organisms are unable to migrate, they avoid stressful conditions by escaping in time to a place where the organisms sleep in winter. It is called hibernation. If the organism or animal sleeps in summer, it is called aestivation. For example- bears sleep during winter and snails sleep during summer.


5.Diapause: It is a natural process that is observed in a certain animal. It causes the delay of development in these animals due to alterations in metabolic activity. Diapause is common in parasites, crabs, shellfish, snail insects, and certain groups of zooplanktons.

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FAQs on Abiotic Components

Why are smaller animals not seen that much in polar regions?

Small animals which are generally conformers did not evolve to become regulators because thermoregulation is energetically expensive and for any animal, heat gain or heat loss is a function of the surface body area. Small animals have a larger body surface area than their volume. They tend to lose body heat very fast in cold temperatures. Then they have to utilise much energy to generate body heat through metabolism, which is why very small animals are not or rarely found in polar regions.

What are the environmental consequences of abiotic elements?

Abiotic factors are nonliving elements of an ecosystem that have an impact on its surroundings. Variables in a terrestrial environment include temperature, light, and water. Salinity and ocean currents are examples of abiotic factors in a marine ecosystem. 

Can you explain the distinction between biotic and abiotic factors?

Ecosystems contain both biotic and abiotic components. Abiotic factors, such as water, soil, and atmosphere, are non-living components of an ecosystem, whereas biotic factors, such as plants, animals, and bacteria, are living organisms within an ecosystem.


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