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What is biological weathering?

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Biological weathering is the effect that living organisms, such as plants and animals, have on rocks and other inanimate objects. This phenomena happens due to the molecular breakdown of minerals in the rock. When biological weathering occurs, the living organism breaks down the rock or other nonliving object through either mechanical or chemical erosion or the use of both.

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What is biological weathering?
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An example of mechanical biological weathering is tree roots growing through a rock, slowly prying it apart or breaking the rock into pieces. Once the tree roots create the holes for the roots to go through, the roots can leech the nutrients from the rock. Another example is an animal that secretes an acid or bores its way into a rock by slowly eroding the space and sliding into it. Either of these methods works to dissolve the rock over time. Organisms such as bacteria, algae and lichen secrete chemicals that work to break down the rocks on which they live. This provides for the slow dissolution of the rock while the organism is still pulling the nutrients it needs to survive from the rock. Organisms such as moss, lichen and algae primarily are found near water sources where the climate is humid, damp and shaded. In this type of climate the organism can grow unimpeded.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How does climate affect the rate of weathering?

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    Climate affects the rate of weathering in several ways: humidity, physical erosion and temperature all impact the rate at which rocks and earthen materials wear and fade. Climate influences weathering over short and longer periods of time. This weathering takes place naturally, through the process of physical weathering, and in the form of chemical weathering, which involves rain, snow and other precipitation with synthetic compounds.

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  • Q:

    What is the process that breaks down rocks?

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    The process in nature that breaks down rocks is called physical weathering. Physical forces such as abrasion, frost action, salt crystal growth, thawing, freezing and temperature fluctuation weaken rocks and cause them to crack and disintegrate over time. Fluctuations in temperature over time can cause rocks to break as a result of constant stress from contraction and expansion.

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  • Q:

    What is abrasion in physical weathering?

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    In physical or mechanical weathering, abrasion occurs when moving particle sediments abrade the surface of exposed rocks. As these particles rub against exposed rocks, it leads to wearing away of the rocks through friction. The particle sediments, such as smaller rocks, are carried through media that includes water, ice and wind.

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  • Q:

    What is the difference between erosion and weathering?

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    The difference between erosion and weathering is that erosion involves movement while weathering takes place without movement. Both processes are involved in the decomposition of rocks.

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