The Definition of Abiotic and Biotic Factors

By Michael E Carpenter; Updated April 25, 2017
The hot water in a hot spring limits the biotic factors to bacteria that can survive the high temperatures.

Abiotic and biotic factors are what make up an ecosystem. The ecosystem is how the living and nonliving things within the environment interact as a unit. The biotic factors present in an ecosystem are highly dependent on the abiotic factors that are present. Even slight changes to either factors can have a major consequence upon the system as a whole.

Abiotic Factors

Geological features such as water, soil, rocks and minerals are abiotic factors.

Abiotic factors are all nonliving components of an ecosystem. These factors include chemical and geological features such as water or lack of water, soil, rocks and minerals. Other abiotic factors include physical components such as the temperature and weather affecting the ecosystem.

Biotic Factors

Biotic factor are living things such as plants.

The biotic factors in an ecosystem include all living things. All plants, animals, fungi, protists and bacteria within an ecosystem make up that system's biotic factors. The biotic factors can be broken down further into producers, consumers and decomposers. The producers create their own food, like plants through the process of photosynthesis. Consumers must eat others to gain energy, like grazing animals or predatory animals. Decomposers break down the waste from both the producers and consumers. Certain species of beetles, worms and bacteria are types of decomposers.

Abiotic Factors Influence on an Ecosystem

Abiotic factors in the desert could include sand, rocks, little rain and no cloud cover.

The abiotic factors present in a system play a large role in what types of biotic factors will be present. For example, a desert's abiotic factors may include sand, rocks, high temperatures, no cloud cover and very little rainfall. These factors will determine what types of biotic organisms will be able to live and survive in this environment. Plants and animals that live in the desert must be able to work with and survive the abiotic factors that are present or they will perish.

Changing Factors

Changes to biotic and abiotic factors have a major impact on an ecosystem.

Changing either abiotic or biotic factors can have a major impact on an ecosystem. Changes to abiotic factors may include global warming or acid rain. These changes can have a major impact on the biotic factors present in the ecosystem; for example, fish populations can be reduced because of acid rain accumulation in a pond. Changing biotic factors such as removing trees from a forest will have a major impact on the other biotic factors present in the environment. Animals may have to leave the system to find food and shelter. The loss of the forest may allow other plant species to take hold and transform the area, which changes how that ecosystem functions.

About the Author

Michael Carpenter has been writing blogs since 2007. He is a mortgage specialist with over 12 years of experience as well as an expert in financing, credit, budgeting and real estate. Michael holds licenses in both real estate and life and health insurance.