In biology and ecology, abiotic components or abiotic factors are non-living chemical and physical parts of the environment that affect living organisms and the functioning of ecosystems. Abiotic factors and phenomena associated with them underpin all biology.
Abiotic components include physical conditions and non-living resources that affect living organisms in terms of growth, maintenance, and reproduction. Resources are distinguished as substances or objects in the environment required by one organism and consumed or otherwise made unavailable for use by other organisms.
Component degradation of a substance occurs by chemical or physical processes, e.g. hydrolysis. All non-living components of an ecosystem, such as the atmosphere or water, are called abiotic components.
In biology, abiotic factors can include water, light, radiation, temperature, humidity, atmosphere, and soil. The macroscopic climate often influences each of the above. Pressure and sound waves may also be considered in the context of marine or sub-terrestrial environments.
All of these factors affect different organisms to different extents. If there is little or no sunlight then plants may wither and die from not being able to get enough sunlight to complete the cycle of photosynthesis. Many Archea require very high temperatures, or pressures, or unusual concentrations of chemical substances, such as sulfur, because of their specialization into extreme conditions. Certain fungi have evolved to survive mostly at the temperature, the humidity, and stability of their environment.
For example, there is a significant difference in access to water as well as humidity between temperate rain forests and deserts. This difference in water access causes a diversity in the types of plants and animals that grow in these areas.
- Biotic component, a living part of an ecosystem that affects and shapes it.
- Abiogenesis, the transformation of non-living into living matter.
- Ricklefs, R.E. 2005. The Economy of Nature, 6th edition. WH Freeman, USA.
- Chapin, F.S. III, H.A. Mooney, M.C. Chapin, and P. Matson. 2011. Principles of terrestrial ecosystem ecology. Springer, New York.
- Water Quality Vocabulary. ISO 6107-6:1994.
- Hogan, C. Benito (2010). "Abiotic factor". Encyclopedia of Earth. Washington,D.C.: National Council for Science and the Environment.
- "Abiotic Components". Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, University of the Western Cape.
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