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How Do Living and Nonliving Things Interact in the Environment?

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Living and nonliving things are closely tied to one another in an ecosystem. The nonliving things in the environment affect which living things can survive in that environment.

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In an ecosystem, living things interact with one another, such as a rabbit eating plants or an owl eating a mouse. Living things can interact with the nonliving things in the environment, such as plants affecting the chemistry of the soil by absorbing nutrients through its roots. Likewise, the nonliving things in an environment can dictate what types of living things can survive there. For example, the salinity of water affects the types of plants and animals that live there. All of the living and nonliving things work together to form an ecosystem.

Biotic Factors in an Ecosystem
The living things in an ecosystem are known as the biotic factors. They range in size from the microscopic algae in the pond to the large animals roaming around on the ground. Although they live in different communities, they all rely on the shared resources in the habitat. There is a balance between all of the organisms living here and removing or changing one can have a significant impact on the entire ecosystem.

Abiotic Factors in an Ecosystem
The nonliving things in an ecosystem are known as the abiotic factors. These are the soil, temperature, precipitation and even the amount of sunlight. All of these factors determine what types of life that environment can support. Removing something as small as a single nutrient from the ecosystem affects the types of plants and animals that can survive there. Alternatively, adding another nonliving resource to the environment can have the same result, attracting other types of living organisms that were not there before. Both scenarios can disrupt the ecosystem tremendously.

Interactions Between Biotic and Abiotic Factors in an Ecosystem
While there are millions of ways for living and nonliving things to interact with one another in a single ecosystem, some are easier to point out than others. Plants absorb water and nutrients from the soil and light from the sun to make food or energy. Plants and animals use solar radiation to stay warm. When plants and animals die, their bodies decompose and release nutrients into the soil. Although the soil contains millions of microscopic living things, it is not alive. This nourished soil then gives back to the plants.

Just like the plants and animals above ground, aquatic animals rely on the abiotic factors in their ecosystems as well. Aquatic plants rely on light from the sun to undergo photosynthesis. Some aquatic animals rely on water to breathe while others must come to the surface to get air.

Changes in the Environment
Changes in the environment can have a devastating impact on the ecosystem. If the temperature is too hot or too cold, plants can die and force animals to migrate to find other food sources. Introduction of toxic chemicals, such as from wastewater or from an oil spill, can kill off plants and animals or taint the soil so that it cannot support living things. There is a balance between all of the living and nonliving things in an ecosystem, and they all rely on each other for survival.

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