Acclimatization is also known as acclimatation. In this process, an individual gives their best to adjust in the surrounding as per changes occurring in the environment. Some of the common factors with which organisms adjust themself are: change in altitude, temperature, humidity, photoperiod, or pH. By adapting to these conditions, organisms make themself capable of surviving in adverse conditions. Acclimatization process does not take too much of time, and these changes occur in a short period, i.e. in hours or weeks. We can also say that “Acclimatization” means adjustment i.e. a condition where an organism adjusts themselves with respect to their surroundings like temperature, altitude, humidity, pH, light, salinity, pressure and presence of certain chemicals.
It is referred to as an adjustment which organisms do by changing their behaviour and physiology to survive with changes which are occurring in the environment. We call these changes as phenotypic changes as they occur in a short duration of time. And mostly these are reversible changes.
Difference In Acclimatization And Adaptation?
If we compare it from a biological point of view, acclimatization is restricted by individuals' genomes, where this same statement can’t be true or correct for the process happening over multiple generations, thus facilitating the recombination of genetic traits which enhances the chances of better survival in a newly formed environment.
Let's consider one example for better understanding: As tomatoes grow in temperate climates. In that case, they can also survive in freezing temperatures if the temperature drops slowly and gradually rather than occurring suddenly. So, short time adjustment is the adjustment shown by the tomato in such an adverse climate.
Let's take another example: A few plants which are found in desert areas bloom only at night. This adaptation is made by plants to ensure that the plant does not dehydrate in the extreme desert heat. Apart from this desert, plants also have a waxy coating on their leaves which helps with dehydration as well.
Acclimatization in Humans
1. High Altitudes:
When we travel to higher altitude locations, we see acclimatization, and it is considered as one of the best examples of the acclimatization process in humans. For example: if a person rides to 3,000 meters above sea level and stays there for at least a week, then, in that case, the individual becomes acclimatized to 3,000 meters. Further, if that person rides 1000 meter more than that they again have to acclimatize to 4000 meters in altitude.
Some of the common changes which body undergoes, when they show acclimatization on high altitude:
Increased in the synthesis of Red blood cells
Causes an increase in pressure in pulmonary arteries – thereby forcing blood into sections of the lungs which are usually not used during normal breathing at lower altitudes
It causes an increase in the depth of respiration
It increases depth (volume) of breath during the inhalation process.
Whereas in other humans, there may be acute mountain sickness when they are above 3000 meters from sea level. Whereas in normal conditions, there may be very common and mild conditions that can be overcome if the body is given enough time to acclimatize. The main reason behind all this is reduced air pressure at high altitudes as well as the lower oxygen levels. In extreme cases, it causes major disorder inside the body. It is High Altitude Cerebral Edema, where fluid builds up in the brain and it is a totally life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention.
2. Deep Diving:
Deep-sea divers also undergo the acclimatization process when they ascend from a certain depth. In this type of acclimatization process, there is another process which acts behind them and is called decompression. In this case, the dissolved inert gases are eliminated from the diver’s body by pausing at several stops during the ascent to the water surface. If drivers start descending in that case, it causes an increase in hydrostatic pressure as well as ambient pressure. So, due to this, the breathing gas which is used with the dive is supplied at ambient pressure. In this process, the gases begin to dissolve in the diver’s body. On depressurization, the dissolved gases start forming bubbles inside the body, which lead to debilitating pain. In adverse cases, it can also cause coma or even death.