The two most important factors which play a vital role in shaping the environment are biotic and abiotic components.
A biotic component or a biotic factor is any living component that affects another living component, or shapes of the ecosystem. This may include both animals that consume other organisms within their ecosystem and the organism that is being consumed. Human influence, pathogens, and disease outbreaks are also included as biotic factors. Each and every biotic factor needs the appropriate amount of energy and nutrition to function from day to day. The three main categories of biotic factors are:
Autotrophs, commonly known as Producers: They convert energy (through the process of photosynthesis) into food. There are two kinds of producers.
The most common type of producer on Earth today is Photoautotrophs. These producers obtain energy from sunlight to support their life functions. Green algae, green plants, and some bacteria are photoautotrophs. Most photoautotrophs have a pigment, such as chlorophyll, to catch photons from the Sun and manufacture their own energy. Then they convert that energy into a form that all life forms can use and use it to create sugars, lipids, proteins and more essential materials for life. In most ecosystems, plants, i.e. the producers are multicellular, highly complex, and very efficient at converting sunlight into energy fuel for living organisms – from the bottom of the energy pyramid. All other organisms depend on the plants for their survival.
Chemoautotrophs are fairly rare components of the ecosystem. They harvest energy from chemicals such as hydrogen, iron, and sulfur, which are not common in most environments. They also play an important role in ecosystems because of their unique biochemistry. Microorganisms that make methane (methanogens) – are chemoautotrophs. Methane, a greenhouse gas which is much more harmful than carbon dioxide, plays a major role in regulating the planet's temperature. Other chemoautotrophs can also produce similarly powerful chemicals with their unusual metabolisms. There is still a debate on whether the first forms of life on Earth photoautotrophs or chemoautotrophs were.
Heterotrophs, commonly known as Consumers: They depend upon producers (and occasionally other consumers) for food. Herbivores i.e. the plant eaters, carnivores i.e. the animal eaters, and omnivores who eat both plants and animals, - all fall under the category of heterotrophs. Heterotrophy may have evolved when some organisms discovered that they could consume autotrophs as a source of energy, instead of creating their own energy and organic materials. Also, a few special kinds of autotrophs subsequently evolved symbiotic relationships with consumers, such as angiosperms – plants which produce fruits and nectars to attract animals, who generally help them to reproduce. The levels of most ecosystems' energy pyramids consist of consumers – herbivores, minor predators, and top predators who eat other organisms.
Detritivores, commonly known as Decomposers: They break down chemicals from producers as well as consumers (usually antibiotic) into a simpler form which can be reused. They constitute an important aspect of many ecosystems. Detritivores can live on any variety of soil with an organic component, including marine ecosystems, where they are termed interchangeably with bottom feeders.
Factors affecting the biotic components and other biotic factors:
Most of the species are affected by the biotic factors present in the ecosystem. On the other hand, biotic components also get affected owing to several reasons. Biotic factors influence nearly all the species in one way or another. When the number of predators increases, the entire food gets affected as any prey falling below that specified predator in the food chain will become prey. If the prey falls prey to predator without getting enough time to repopulate, this will not only cause endangerment and extinction in the prey but the predator as well. Due to a decrease in population size, if a particular species reproduces too swiftly, this will cause an increase in population size, thus affecting the environment around them in reverse.
DISEASE OUTBREAKS AND PATHOGENS
Disease outbreaks can be detrimental to our ecosystem. Usually, when a disease breaks in, it will affect more than one species, thus causing a serious outbreak. This may set off a chain reaction thus, causing endangerment to a variety of species within that ecosystem. Past records show that serious disease outbreaks have nearly extinguished human population at times.
The most sudden and long terms changes in the environment are made by Human beings (eg: pollution and waste). These changes can be fatal at times and can either drive species out of their territory or force them to get used to their new environs. These changes may have the largest impact on an ecosystem’s population size, generally causing a serious decrease.
On the other hand, abiotic components or abiotic factors are non-living chemical and physical parts of the environment that affect living organisms and the functioning of ecosystems. All the physical conditions and non-living resources that affect living organisms in terms of growth, maintenance, and reproduction come under abiotic components. By chemical or physical processes, component degradation of a substance occurs e.g. hydrolysis falls under abiotic factors. All non-living components of an ecosystem, such as water resources, atmospheric condition etc are called abiotic components. Abiotic factors can be of three types:
Climatic factors: Factors related to climate, temperature, sunlight, rainfall etc.
Edaphic factors: Factors relating to soil, its texture, geography, and topography of land etc.
Social factors: These refers to how land and water resources are utilized by the local population of an area. Eg: farming, mining etc
The above picture cites examples of both biotic and abiotic components present in our ecosystem.
The chart shows the differences between biotic and abiotic components in the ecosystem.
In short, both abiotic and biotic components together take an important part in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.