What Are Some Nonliving Things in the Rainforest?

By Staff WriterLast Updated May 7, 2021 1:12:37 PM ET

Climate, sunlight, fire, soil and topography are some nonliving things in a rainforest. The non living definition is, "inanimate, or inorganic," according to Google. So, when one mentions an inanimate object or refers to inorganic life, they mean something that is not alive. 

What makes something living is the ability to breathe, move, or grow. Living things are able to respond to their own environment. A word to use when describing nonliving things in an ecosystem is, "abiotic." When using abiotic as an adjective, you are basically referring to nonliving things with the characteristics of life. 

Is a rock a living thing? Not quite. Is soil a living thing? No, but both rock and soil are abiotic. They are important to ecosystems because they foster environments and nutrients for living things.  When looking at nonliving things in a rainforest, we call those "abiotic factors." Places with broad, diverse ecosystems, like rainforests are full of abiotic factors.


Abiotic Factors in a Rainforest: Different Rainforests Explained

When it comes to abiotic things in a rainforest, there are different climates can dictate different abiotic things in the rainforest. Climatic factors include temperature, rainfall, wind and storm patterns. Temperatures vary by whether a rainforest is temperate or tropical, with cooler temperatures in temperate rainforests. Research shows that numbers of large storm systems have a more significant impact on rainfall than warming temperatures. In particular, the El Niño Southern Oscillation is a pattern of decreased rain generated by fluctuations in ocean water temperature.

Nonliving things in a tropical rain forest include things that thrive in wet climates. Tropical rainforests receive at least 100 inches of rain in a typical year. This rain will affect what types of plants grow there and evolutionary features of the animals that live there. Tropical dry rainforests still receive a considerable amount of rainfall, so tropical dry forest abiotic factors need to be able to thrive during a dry season as well as wet climates. 

Sunlight is characteristically low in the rainforest understory. The vertical nature of the environment, where tall trees form a canopy, causes the blockage of most available light and leads to fewer undergrowth plants.

High winds change the sunlight available to the understory by opening up the canopy. Other disturbances include fire, floods and human interactions such as pollution and deforestation. The correlation of air pollution to plant health in temperate forests is unclear and requires additional research.

Soil composition refers to the minerals and nutrients available in the soil for plant growth. The pH of the soil also influences vegetation, with most rainforest soils being alkaline.

The topography of a rainforest includes the geologic formations that form its landscape features. Slopes direct rainwater to lower levels, creating water collection sites. Rocks prevent much plant growth due to unavailability of nutrients and soil. Aspect, or the direction faced by a slope, affects the daily duration of sunlight.