Biotic vs. Abiotic Factors: 10 Differences, Examples

Differences between Biotic and Abiotic Factors (Biotic vs Abiotic Factors)
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Biotic Factors Definition

The biotic factor or biotic component is the living organism that shapes an ecosystem.

  • Biotic factors include plants, animals, bacteria, algae, and all other living forms present in an ecosystem.
  • An ecosystem is a complex system of living and non-living things; the living part of the system forms the biotic factors.
  • Biotic factors include all producers, consumers, and decomposers that are involved in the transformation and transport of energy through the food cycle.
  • These biotic factors are also responsible for diseases and outbreaks.
  • Producers are the group of organisms that make up their own food through processes like photosynthesis.
  • Most producers use photosynthesis to convert solar energy to chemical energy, but various autotrophs also utilize other processes like phototrophy and chemotrophy.
  • All green plants contain chlorophyll as the photosynthetic pigment for the process of photosynthesis. Other pigments like bacterial rhodopsin and carotenoids are also found in some bacteria, algae, and phytoplankton for photosynthesis.
  • Some producers generate food by the process of chemosynthesis, which derives the energy from chemical reactions, rather than sunlight.
  • Consumers are the groups of organisms that feed on producers, directly or indirectly, for energy and food.
  • Consumers reside in separate trophic levels, as primary and secondary consumers. Primary consumers are herbivores that directly dependent on autotrophs or producers. Secondary consumers, in turn, feed on primary consumers.
  • Biotic factors of the ecosystem are responsible for capturing the energy for the conversion of inorganic compounds into organic compounds.
  • Biotic factors, with abiotic factors, determine the nature of the ecosystem and ecological niches.

Abiotic Factors Definition

The abiotic factors or abiotic components of an ecosystem are the non-living physical and chemical composition of nature.

  • Abiotic factors include factors like sunlight, water resource, air, soil, rocks, tides, temperature, rain, and humidity, among others.
  • These factors affect the growth, survival, and reproduction of living organisms and their functioning in the ecosystem.
  • All the environment resources are either utilized by different living organisms or made unavailable to organisms after being utilized by other organisms.
  • Natural degradation of various components like chemicals or rocks occurs via hydrolysis or other physical processes.
  • Abiotic factors are composed of all non-living organisms, like atmospheric conditions and water resources.
  • The abiotic component of an ecosystem also defers on the basis of the type of ecosystem. Sand plays an essential role as an abiotic factor in the desert ecosystem, whereas rainfall is an abiotic component in the tropical forest ecosystem.
  • Pressure and sound waves are the abiotic components in the marine ecosystem along with other factors like water clarity, aerial exposure, and water tides.
  • Biotic factors of different ecosystems adapt to the abiotic factors of that particular ecosystem. One example of this is the archaea found in extreme environments that utilize the biotic factors for their survival and growth.
  • The abiotic factors also affect eh living organisms of the ecosystems. Depending on the ability of the organisms, only the organisms capable of withstanding these abiotic factors will survive in such ecosystems.
  • Sometime, these factors might even evolve the nature of different ecosystems. Lack of rainfall might convert a tropical ecosystem into the desert ecosystem.

Key Differences (Biotic Factors vs Abiotic Factors)

Basis for Comparison

Biotic factors

Abiotic factors

Definition The biotic factor or biotic component is the living organism that shapes an ecosystem. Abiotic factors or abiotic components of an ecosystem are the non-living physical and chemical composition of nature.
Dependency Biotic factors depend on abiotic factors for their survival and growth. Abiotic factors do not depend on biotic factors for their existence.
Measurement The measurement of the biotic component is subjective. The measurement of the abiotic component is objective.
Relationship Living organisms might be directly or indirectly related to other organisms in an ecosystem. Abiotic factors determine the number and type of living organisms surviving in an ecosystem.
Adaptation Biotic factors are capable of adapting to changes in the environment. Abiotic factors don’t have the ability to adapt according to the environmental conditions.
Limiting factors Changes in one biotic factor rarely cause changes in other groups. Changes in any abiotic factor might bring significant changes in the biotic factors.
Components Biotic factors include various plants, animals, bacteria, and algae that act as producers, consumers, or decomposers. Abiotic factors include soil topography, climate, and natural disturbances of the ecosystem.
Resources Biotic resources are forests and forest products, marine resources like fish, etc. Abiotic resources include land, water, soil, and coal.
Association Biotic factors might form different associations like symbiosis, parasitism, and predator-prey association. No such associations are formed between abiotic factors.
Examples Humans, insects, wild animals, birds, bacteria, etc. are some examples of biotic factors. Soil, rainfall, humidity, temperature, pH, climate, etc. are some examples of abiotic factors.

Examples of Biotic Factors


  • Humans are one of the most important biotic factors that affect the condition of the environment and the survival of other living beings.
  • As a result of various technological advancements, humans have drastically changed the global ecosystem along with other climatic changes occurring naturally.
  • One of the most evident examples of this is the effect of human activities on the carbon cycle. As a result of increasing industries and automobiles, a large amount of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide is being emitted, which directly affects the climatic conditions and air quality of the world.
  • Other activities like deforestation and urbanization have brought massive changes in the amount and quality of soil, land, and water.
  • These changes accumulate to cause rapid climate change leading to the mass extinction of many organisms.
  • Humans, therefore, acts as the most potent biotic factors of any ecosystem.


  • Cyanobacteria are considered as the first living organisms to ever exist on earth.
  • These single-celled autotrophic microorganisms played a crucial role in developing or evolving the global ecosystem to the present condition.
  • These organisms were responsible for storing solar energy and utilizing it for the conversion of inorganic carbon compounds into organic compounds.
  • Before the existence of cyanobacteria, there was no oxygen on earth. Thus, they used anaerobic respiration as a metabolism for food production.
  • Cyanobacteria are also responsible for the production of oxygen from carbon dioxide. With the release of oxygen, a large number of other organisms came into existence.
  • As new and advanced organisms evolved on the earth, cyanobacteria almost became extinct. However, they adapted to the new environment by forming blooms in different parts of the world.

Examples of Abiotic Factors


  • Temperature is one of the important abiotic factors that determine the rate of metabolic reaction and thus, the survival of various biotic factors.
  • With an increase in temperature, the rate of enzyme-catalyzed reaction also increases. However, this happens only up to a point.
  • As the temperature goes on increasing, these enzymes might become denatured. The Denaturation of essential enzymes halts various chemical reactions, affecting the lives of all living beings.
  • Similarly, temperature also brings about changes in the type of organisms surviving in an ecosystem.
  • Only extremophiles and organisms capable of withstanding such temperature can survive in such ecosystems.
  • A similar process occurs in cold temperatures like that in mountains and higher altitudes.

Light availability

  • The availability of sunlight is another important abiotic factor that affects the rate of photosynthesis in producers and also affects the breeding cycles in animals.
  • Light availability, in turn, depends on other environmental factors like rainfall, water cycles, and other processes.
  • The absence of oxygen for extended hours of a day affects the process of food production in animals. This ultimately affects the entire ecosystem.

Toxins and pollutants

  • Toxins and pollutants of all kinds are detrimental to the living component of the ecosystem.
  • These toxins affect the tissues and metabolic pathways in various living organisms. As a result, a number of diseases might appear.
  • Meanwhile, they also affect the climate, which then affects other abiotic factors like rainfall and humidity.

References and Sources

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About Author

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Anupama Sapkota

Anupama Sapkota has a bachelor’s degree (B.Sc.) in Microbiology from St. Xavier's College, Kathmandu, Nepal. She is particularly interested in studies regarding antibiotic resistance with a focus on drug discovery.

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