The abiotic, or non-living, factors that affect an ecosystem include the local temperature, light intensity, geology and presence of pollutants. Additionally, factors such as the pH of the soil and the types of gases that are dissolved in a body of water are non-living factors to which living organisms must adapt. The weather conditions of an area are abiotic factors that influence the functioning of ecosystems.
The abiotic factors of an ecosystem may be beneficial or detrimental to its inhabitants. For example, in the Arctic, the light intensity and temperature are both very low, which limits the number of organisms that can survive there. Very few plants can live in the Arctic, which means that herbivorous animals, which may otherwise be able to cope with the dim, cool conditions, cannot obtain enough food to survive. If herbivorous animals cannot survive in an area, predators do not have a viable food source.
In addition to abiotic factors, biotic factors influence an ecosystem. Biotic factors, which result from living organisms, include parasites, diseases and the local plant and animal communities. The combination of an area’s abiotic and biotic factors determine many characteristics of the ecosystem, including its carrying capacity, or the number of animals it can support.