What Are Abiotic Components?

Jillian O Keeffe

The concept of abiotic components is generally used within the field of ecology. Contrary to biotic components, which are living organisms, abiotic components are those factors present that are not alive, but yet have an effect on life. Examples include temperature, soil and water, all of which are factors that are not alive. Changes in abiotic components can benefit living organisms or be detrimental to their survival. Typically, a list of abiotic components includes climate factors, soil, topographical characteristics and water.

A certain amount of water is needed to keep water lilies alive, making water an abiotic component.
A certain amount of water is needed to keep water lilies alive, making water an abiotic component.

Climate as an abiotic factor encompasses many physical features. Temperature is one abiotic component, as it changes both by geographical location and by season. Living organisms must adapt to temperatures in the area that the organisms live, and be able to survive or reproduce through temperature changes. One example of a plant adapting to seasonal temperature drops over the wintertime is the peach tree, whose seeds only start to grow into new peach trees after they sense a period of cold. This helps the seed know when the cold, dangerous time to germinate is over, and spring has arrived.

Atmospheric gases is another potential abiotic factor, which may be less changeable in many ecosystems than temperature, but forms an important part of the environment for organisms. This can include bacteria, which may or may not be able to thrive in oxygen-rich environments. Wind is another abiotic climate factor, as it helps seeds to spread from a tree, and when intense can make an environment unsuitable for certain types of plants that are not sturdy enough to stand up to it. Light is an important abiotic factor for the vast majority of living organisms. Humans, for example, develop bone abnormalities if they do not get enough light, in a condition called rickets, which is a lack of vitamin d, which humans make through exposure to sunlight.

Water is another essential abiotic component to ecosystems, as the availability of it defines the animals and plants that can live in a certain environment. Water-lilies, for example, cannot live without lots of water, whereas cacti can survive in places with little water. Soil is a major abiotic component because it contains nutrients for plants, and a secure place to put down roots. The acidity or alkalinity of soil can prevent certain plants growing, as can the drainage of water and the amount of air that the soil can hold between the grains.

Topographical features of an environment also help dictate the types of life that can live in that environment. Different plants and animals live at different heights above sea-level, and sharply sloped land can lose water quicker than flatter land. Land facing the sun gets more heat and light than land in shadow, and rocky land has little soil for plants to grow.

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