Five different types of abiotic factors

Updated February 21, 2017

An abiotic factor is a nonliving component in the environment. This can be either a chemical or physical presence. Abiotic factors fall into three basic categories: climatic, edaphic and social. Climatic factors include humidity, sunlight and factors involving the climate. Edaphic refers to soil conditions, so edaphic abiotic factors include soil and geography of the land. Social factors include how the land is being used and water resources in the area. Five common abiotic factors are atmosphere, chemical elements, sunlight/temperature, wind and water.

Temperature and Light

Temperature of the air and water affect animals, plants and humans in ecosystems. A rise in temperature has the potential to change the way a living thing develops, because it changes the metabolic rate of the organism. All living organisms have a tolerance level for temperature range. For example, a human being would die if he stood out in minus 50 degree temperatures for any length of time. Light exposure often affects the temperature. Areas with direct sunlight are warmer.


All living organism needs some water intake. Water covers 70 per cent of the earth's surface and falls as rain or snow over land. In an environment with little water, only organisms requiring a small percentage of water can survive. Other animals thrive in conditions with large amounts of water, such as marine animals and plants in oceans. Water is essential to survival, but every organism needs a different amount of water.


The atmosphere of the earth sustains life. Animals and other creatures breathe oxygen or filter it from water, and plants grow because of the presence of carbon dioxide. The atmosphere is made up of four layers: troposphere, stratosphere, ozonosphere and mesosphere.

Chemical Elements

Chemical elements act within the environment to impact what type of organisms can grow or thrive in the area. The chemical composition, including acidity level, has a large impact on the plants in an area. Chemical elements make up all matter, including other abiotic factors.


Often abiotic factors are affected by other factors. This is especially evident with wind. The wind speed and direction affects the temperature and humidity of an area. Wind also carries seeds and aids pollination, spreading life. This lets plant forms travel out of a contained area.

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About the Author

Kristine Brite worked as a community journalist and public relations specialist before moving onto freelance writing. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Indiana University and has six years of professional writing experience.