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7 Abiotic Factors
Tthere are two types of components that make up an ecosystem's characteristics: abiotic and biotic.
Biotic components are made up of living factors.
Abiotic components are made up of abiotic factors - which this hub is going to concentrate on - and are all non-living factors.
1. Solar Energy Input
Perhaps the most important factor on the list in terms of the effect it has on an ecosystem, the amount of sun energy that an ecosystem receives is vital to its character because every plant requires light energy to photosynthesise.
Solar energy input is also used as a stimulus for the initiation of flowers and seed germination.
Changes in the amount of daylight can also initiate changes in animals too, with some animals beginning to reproduce after such a change.
Climate features such as rain, wind and temperature play a large part also in the way an ecosystem has to work.
Rain provides necessary water for photosynthesis and so its quantity will determine just how many photosynthetic organisms can survive in an environment, the predators of those organisms, as well as the types (e.g. cacti in the desert).
Wind levels define how strong and sturdy the organisms in an ecosystem are, and which habitats must be in existence for them to survive. Low wind levels allow for weaker more feeble organisms that reproduce rapidly to survive. In windy areas, many plants use it as an advantage and make countless spores that will be carried to other plants and pollinate.
Temperature also plays a key role in ecosystems with hot climates allowing rapid growth (boosted metabolisms) and lean, high surface animals, and cold climates leading to more spherical, fatty animals as well as slower growth and reproduction. Habitats vary widely as a result of temperature too. Plants and bacteria also have to have particular features that allow for survival in extreme climates of temperatures.
Topography "The arrangement of the natural and artificial physical features of an area" includes:
Altitude - This has effects on climate and so has various effects according to what climate factors it affects.
Slope- The organisms on a flat land compared to a hilly one will have different movement muscles to one another. This is because some muscles are say, evolved for forward propulsion (calf muscles) whilst others for lifting the leg (thigh muscles).
Aspect- This is the direction that the land is facing (in relation to the sun) and so has its relevance to temperature, wherein for example, an environment that faces generally away from the sun will be cooler.
This is of course very important in defining the quantities of aerobic (oxygen requiring) and anaerobic (not oxygen requiring) organisms with: plants, animals and most other organisms not being able to survive in an area depleted of oxygen.
Edaphic factors are those associated with the soil. This could include obvious things like the PH (acidity) of the soil which of course limits the variation of plants and other organisms that can live there.
A less obvious edaphic feature is aeration, the extent to which the soil has ventilation (supply/exchange of oxygen) to accommodate aerobic organisms. Organisms such as worms can be highly affected by this as they do in fact require oxygen to live.
Another factor is that of nutrients, since soil without the correct content will result in little or no growth of particular organisms. NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) are particularly important in the development of plants and are used in fertilisers to promote healthy growth.
The content of water is also important as too much may result in drowning of water sensitive organisms whilst not enough may result in the deaths of organisms dependent highly on moisture.
Pollution here refers to an unwanted or non-optimal content of air. For example, a high content of CO (carbon monoxide) will result in the deaths of many mammals such as humans and indeed this is why smoke kills us before fire in a house fire, and why many people buy carbon monoxide alarms (in case of gas leaks, it is un-senseable to a human otherwise).
As a result of pollution, only organisms adapted to the particular air content and quality will be able to survive in those areas with such a content, the rest dying or having to leave.
Natural (or otherwise) catastrophes can have devastating effects on an environment, killing off large populations or perhaps even leading to the extinction of them (such as suspected of the dinosaurs and the comet that hit Earth, throwing up enough dust into the air upon impact, to freeze them to death). Thus, this edaphic feature's effects can vary drastically and the types of catastrophes are near enough endless. Volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes and tsunamis have historically caused humans many problems.
An easy way of remembering these factors is with the use of the mnemonic 'STOPCEC' - Solar, Topography, Oxygen, Pollution, Climate, Edaphic, Catastrophe. :)
All in all
It is important to consider abiotic factors as well as biotic factors when thinking about creating, preserving or understanding a given environment. These are complicated systems and are so because of intricate complexities, understanding them is key to preserving both our environments and creating artificial ones for conservation programs and zoo's. This will improve the well being of the animals and may also lead to discoveries that could prove useful to humanity.