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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:

    What factors affect the rate of weathering?

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    The factors that affect the rate of weathering are humidity, the composition of rocks, high temperatures, vegetation and wind. In a hot and wet environment, weathering tends to be rapid. In dry climates, weathering is slower.

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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:

    How does freeze-thaw weathering break up rocks?

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    Freeze-thaw weathering is a form of physical or mechanical weathering that induces stress on rocks when water repeatedly seeps into cracks, freezes and expands, eventually causing the rock to break apart. This type of weathering is largely driven by the intensity and frequency of freeze-thaw cycles and the structural properties of the rocks subject to weathering.

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  • Q:

    What does "physical weathering" mean?

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    Physical weathering, also called mechanical weathering, refers to the process of breaking rocks apart while retaining their chemical composition, according to the American Geosciences Institute. It means that rocks slowly wear away due to physical changes, such as temperature changes, freezing and thawing, wind, rain and waves, explains the BBC.

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