Abiotic factors of ecosystems

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Abiotic factors of ecosystems
Water and climate are two abiotic factors of ecosystems. (Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

An ecosystem is comprised of, and affected by, two components. The biotic factors are living things that are in and influence an ecosystem, such as plants, animals and humans, bacteria and fungi. The other component is abiotic factors, all other elements in the ecosystem, which, despite not being alive, nonetheless impact the ecosystem. The categories of abiotic factors are water availability and quality, sunlight, meteorology, soil conditions, air quality and topograhy.


Water availability is an abiotic factor of ecosystems. Living things need water to survive and how plentiful or scarce water is affects the necessary water cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation. Oceans, rivers or streams are key components of an ecosystem and the many forms of life that live there. The freshwater ecosystem itself is made up of biotic and abiotic elements and depends on them equally as well. Water quality is another factor, with important metabolic functions subject to water ingredients like zinc and iron that become poisonous with low-quality water.


Sunlight is a major part of abiotic conditions in an ecosystem. The sun is the primary source of energy on our planet. It lights the surface, provides higher energy waves, affects the earth's temperature and circulates the earth's atmosphere.


Meteorology or weather conditions considered abiotic are temperature, wind velocity, solar insulation, humidity and precipitation. The statistical and seasonal variation of these factors influence the habitat and temporal correlation.


Soil conditions that affect ecosystems are the granularity, chemistry and nutrient content and availability. These soil conditions interact with precipitation to cause change. Although dead organic material such as animal remains are scientifically considered abiotic.


Air quality plays an important part because pollution can contribute to carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide degrading circulatory or pulmonary function. Air pollution can also disrupt the process of photosynthesis.


Micro-topographic elements mix with meteorology barriers to affect plant growth and selection in a given area. Topography, soil type and precipitation shape surface run-off and limit the ability of animals to build burrows and nests and affects the way predators and prey are able to hunt and hide from each other.

Tolerance Range

Abiotic factors are particularly important to new or barren or unpopulated ecosystems. This is because the abiotic factors of the unpopulated system sets the stage for how well a given species will be able to live, thrive and reproduce there. Each organism's ability to survive in a set of abiotic conditions is known as the tolerance range.

Biotic Intervention

The abiotic aspects of an ecosystem can be affected by the biotic aspects. For example, animals digging in the ground adds to soil erosion, and plants take carbon dioxide from the air and contribute oxygen.

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