What Are the Abiotic Factors of an Estuary?
The abiotic factors of an estuary are water depth, salinity, nutrients, air and water temperature, pH of the water, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity or cloudiness. Nutrients are substances in the water, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, available to organisms as food.
An estuary is an ecosystem where the mouth of a river or stream meets the sea tide. An abiotic factor is a non-living part of an ecosystem. To determine estuaries’ health, scientists monitor both abiotic factors and the living things or biotic factors.
The pH measures acidity or alkalinity. A pH value of 7 is neutral. Values more than 7 are alkaline and less than 7 are acidic. If water is too acidic or too alkaline, some types of organisms don’t thrive.
Estuaries are a primary place in nature’s nutrient cycle that make many elements available to organisms as food. In a healthy estuary, elements stay in balance. Too much nitrogen, for example, and algae numbers may explode, use excess nutrients, then die and use too much oxygen as they decompose. When algae use too much food and oxygen, they may deny them to other organisms. Also, algae blooms cause pH to rise. If the bloom is severe, the rise in pH can kill aquatic animals.
Turbidity is a measure of suspended matter in the water. If the water is too cloudy, little or no sunlight can penetrate to nourish aquatic plants, which other organisms feed on and which do the necessary task of
oxygenating the water.