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How Abiotic Factors Affect Living Organisms

written by: Atula Gupta•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 7/15/2010

Abiotic factors are the non-living things like temperature, soils conditions, water, etc. of a particular area that determine the kind of life surviving there. The article discusses these abiotic factors and how they affect living organisms.

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    Important Abiotic Factors

    Planet Earth is the only known planet that has conditions suitable enough for living organisms to grow, reproduce and survive. These conditions are a combination of non-living components like water, sunlight, temperature and living components like micro-organisms, plants and animals. The non-living components of a particular environment that make the conditions ideal for sustenance of life are known as the abiotic factors.

    Some of the important abiotic factors that affect living organisms are:

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    Water

    Water can easily be called the lifeblood of Earth. The planet’s surface is covered by 70% water and it is the essential component of all living beings. 75 % of the human body is comprised of water, with 90% of blood being water. All living beings, whether they are animals or plants, need a definite percentage of water present in their body to remain healthy. In human beings water helps regulate the body's temperature and blood pressure. It is also an important part of saliva, sweat and tears. In plants important nutrients are carried from the soil to the plants through water. The water bodies of the world have more life forms present in them than found on land.

    Water has the property of its solid frozen form being less dense than the liquid form. This important property makes ice float on water and allows many aquatic life forms to survive in cold conditions in the water in spite of the surface being frozen. There is a wide range of temperature in which water remains in liquid form and it has the ability to dissolve many essential nutrients & minerals. All this and more make water an iessential factor for survival of life.

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    Temperature

    All plants and animals are adapted to survive between a minimum and maximum range of temperature. The earth’s surface has different temperatures in different zones and while some animals and plants can bear extreme heat or extreme cold, some survive well in moderate temperature ranges. There are animals whose body temperature fluctuates in different seasonal conditions. These are animals like fishes and frogs that are called poikilothermal or cold blooded animals. Others are those animals and mammals who can regulate their body temperature according to the outside temperature. These are known as homeothermal or warm blooded animals.

    In geographical processes temperature also plays an important role. The difference in the temperature of different oceanic water in combination with winds and the earth’s rotation gives rise to oceanic currents. Heat and cold equilibrium in combination with various other factors thus governs many physiological and biological process of the planet.

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    Light

    Light is the main source of energy for organisms. Natural light has an important part to play in the life of most plants as it is utilized by them for the process of photosynthesis where light energy is converted into chemical energy and into complex organic substances important for growth, flowering and germination. Plants as food source indirectly transfer the energy to animals. For animals the intensity of light affects their skin color, sensitivity, sight etc. There are insects that use UV light to distinguish between flowers and many experts believe that birds too orient themselves in a specific direction depending on the slight difference of UV light reflected from object such as trees. Light not only is an energy source but an important factor for maintaining the biological rhythm of life.

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    Atmospheric Pressure

    Bruce Tuten 

    Because of the gravitational force of the earth the atmospheric gases are pulled towards the surface. This phenomenon leads to the air pressure being more near the surface of the earth and it decreases as the altitude or the height increases. All organisms can again survive only in particular range of atmospheric pressure and when the air pressure is low, especially in higher altitudes some may find it difficult to breathe because of the insufficient amount of oxygen present at a height. In the depth of the oceans the atmospheric pressure increases with the increasing depth and again this induces only certain kinds of animals and plants to survive in certain specific ocean regions.

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    Chemical components

    Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen and Nitrogen are four natural elements that constitute 97 % of the molecules of life. Of the 92 known natural elements in Earth, 25 elements are found in living beings. Organic and inorganic compounds derived from plants and other food sources ensure the smooth functioning of many vital organs.

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    Soil

    For plants soil type is a major factor in deciding the type and variety of species growing in a particular area as the minerals, water co ntents, microorganisms etc. all differ in different soils. Soil is a combination of various organic and inorganic matters and with the varying content the water retention capacity of the soil, the fertility, and presence of minerals also changes. While clay soil can retain more water but less air, black soil is ideal for plant growth with balance of air and water retention capacities.

    To conclude, every living organism needs certain climatic and environmental conditions that are decided by the temperature, rainfall, water availability, minerals, atmospheric pressure, humidity etc. of that place. The abiotic factors in combination with the biotic factors provide ideal living conditions and if the critical balance of nature is maintained, the species inhabiting their particular environment may continue to do so without a problem

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    Reference

    http://www.transtutors.com/homework-help/Biology/Living+Organism+and+Environment/abiotic-factors.aspx

    http://biocab.org/ecology_1.html

    Image Credit

    Photos by Eran Finkle, Bruce Tuten and angel malachite cc/Flickr