Difference between Biotic and Abiotic Factors Explained
The difference between biotic and abiotic factors in an ecosystem is in terms of their origin and attributes; where biotic components are organic and mostly affect living organisms, while abiotic factors are inorganic and mostly affect the non-living components of the environment.
This article discusses the difference between biotic and abiotic factors in terms of characteristics, effects on environment, organisms, and scope or relevance, as follows;
1). Characteristics (in Explanation of the Difference between Biotic and Abiotic Factors)
Biotic and abiotic factors differ in their basic characteristics, which can be explained and understood in terms of their nature, means of measurement, place in the ecosystem, and sources.
The most important characteristic of biotic factors is their organic nature.
Biotic factors come from organic sources and are involved in the essential biological processes which occur in an ecosystem, such as reproduction, feeding, growth, and biodegradation .
Due to their organic nature, biotic factors make up what is known as the biosphere; a segment or aspect of the environment that is dominated by living organisms and their activities.
The biotic factors in an ecosystem are also mostly responsible for natural recycling of bioenergy. These components work together to capture, utilize and transform solar energy from one form to another, while transferring it across the trophic levels of the energy pyramid.
The characteristics of biotic factors can be summarized into; organic source, biological recycling, bioenergy dependency, and role in environmental modification through nutrient consumption and distribution.
Characteristics of abiotic factors are; inorganic source, no direct involvement in biological processes, energy independence, and direct role in environment modification.
Abiotic factors differ in characteristics from biotic factors, by being non-living or inorganic in nature. These components are not part of the biosphere, but rather are found in the atmosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere.
2). Effects on Environment
Biotic and abiotic factors can also be differentiated from each other on the basis of their effects on the environment respectively.
The effects of abiotic factors on the environment include climate modification, soil nutrient and aggregate dynamics, drainage and hydrological flow changes, and habitat availability determination.
Abiotic factors have these effects because they are inorganic and physical factors, which constitute the environment itself, in terms of rocks, soil, and physicochemical conditions. This means that abiotic factors have a direct effect on the environment.
The effect of biotic factors on the environment is indirect, and comes from the activities and processes of plants and animals. These activities and processes affect the environment because they may extract or deposit nutrients, and may cause physical changes as organisms attempt to modify the environment to suit their needs for survival.
An example of how biotic factors indirectly affect the environment is urbanization; which is the result of humans' (living organisms) efforts to make the environment more conducive for their survival and activities. Urbanization has major environmental impacts, and many of these like climate change, resource depletion and pollution, are not positive.
For other animals, and plants, their effects on the environment can occur in the form of habitat modification, and nutrient deposition as their remains are decomposed.
The effects of biotic and abiotic factors on the environment can converge or interplay, to determine the survival and geographic distribution of organisms  .
3). Effects on Organisms (in Explanation of the Difference between Biotic and Abiotic Factors)
Effects on organisms is another criteria or metric by which biotic and abiotic factors in the ecosystem can be differentiated.
Biotic factors affect an organism directly by determining its specie, biological characteristics, trend of adaptation, and geographic relatives.
Geographic relatives here refer to the species that occur in close proximity to a given organism in an ecosystem.
Biotic factors can affect organic survival adversely by bringing together various species that compete closely against one another, or invasive species that deplete food resources and spread diseases .
Abiotic factors affect organisms indirectly, by controlling the conditions of the environment in which they live, and thereby causing the organisms to either adapt or be displaced.
Both biotic and abiotic factors work together to affect organic adaptation, survival, and distribution.
Biotic and abiotic factors affect the distribution of organisms by limiting these organisms to areas with favorable climatic conditions, accessible habitat, food, and fewer competitors and predators than surrounding areas.
The interrelationship between abiotic factors like temperature, humidity; and biotic factors like interspecies competition, can have a drastic impact on how organisms behave, adapt, and their spatial distribution across a given geographic area .
A clear disparity can be observed between the two groups of ecological components when we identify examples of biotic and abiotic factors.
Examples of biotic factors include living organisms like amphibians, algae, plants, fish, mammals, birds; and biological processes like respiration, transpiration, reproduction and biodegradation.
Examples of abiotic factors are; temperature, humidity, salinity, pH, solar radiation, soil aggregates, nutrients, air, dissolved oxygen and acidity.
5). Scope of Relevance (in Explanation of the Difference between Biotic and Abiotic Factors)
Lastly, the difference between biotic and abiotic factors in an ecosystem can be defined on the basis of their respective scopes of relevance.
The scope of relevance of biotic factors is concentrated in the biosphere; which comprises of living organisms, biomass, enzymes, biological attributes, biochemical reactions, organic activity, and bioenergy cycling.
On the other hand, abiotic factors are most relevant in the inorganic segments or aspects of the ecosystem, that include climate, nutrient distribution, hydrology, soil, and air composition.
Both biotic and abiotic factors are important for inorganic and organic phenomena, as they both interact to achieve a state of ecological equilibrium in the environment.
The difference between biotic and abiotic factors is summarized in the following table;
Effects on Environment
Effects on Organisms
Animals, plants, biological processes
Temperature, pressure, humidity
Scope of relevance
Mainly atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere
The difference between biotic and abiotic factors can be evaluated based on various criteria that include;
2. Effects on Environment
3. Effects on Organisms
5. Scope of Relevance
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