Biotic Factor: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Dominic Corsini
This lesson focuses on the meaning of the term 'biotic factor.' It also introduces other terminology such as the words 'abiotic' and 'ecosystem'. There are real-world examples embedded in the lesson, and a brief quiz follows.

Earth is an Amazing Place

Earlier this year, I read an article about space exploration. The article focused on the idea that people would visit Mars sometime within the next 10 years. I shared this information with my father. Our conversation then shifted somewhat, and he recalled when man first visited the moon in 1969. This got me thinking. People have sent probes, rovers, and other spacecraft throughout our solar system on voyages of discovery. Yet, regardless of where they've visited, the one thing they've never found are biotic factors. Biotic factors are living things that affect the life of other living organisms. Despite their nonexistence elsewhere, on Earth biotic factors are everywhere!

Living organisms (biotic factors) have colonized every corner of our planet. Fields, forests, hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, beneath arctic ice, inside caves and swimming in hot springs, on city streets, underground, and in the sky life persists and flourishes. When you sit back and think about it, it is simply amazing.

Biotic Interactions

One of the subjects I teach here in Pennsylvania is called ecology. During class, much of our time is spent focusing on interactions that occur between living and nonliving components of an ecosystem. An ecosystem is a community of living things and their surrounding nonliving components. For example, let's look at a forest ecosystem.

Forests have many living parts, including all plants, animals, fungi, and microbes. These biotic factors interact with their living and nonliving surroundings. The nonliving pieces of an ecosystem include air, water, soil, and sunlight (to name a few). Collectively, these nonliving items are referred to as abiotic. Abiotic means nonliving. Different ecosystems have differing collections of biotic and abiotic parts that interact with one another.

Remember that biotic factors are living things that interact with and affect other organisms. They do this through various relationships. We'll look at two kinds below.

Predators and Prey

One such relationship is that of predators and prey. A commonly used example of this relationship is the fox and rabbit. Here you have a predator/prey relationship between two biotic factors that directly affect each other's survival. If the fox fails to capture a rabbit, the fox may starve. If the fox succeeds, it will survive but the rabbit will not. Snakes and mice, lions and gazelles, and hawks and chipmunks are all examples of biotic factors affecting one another via predator/prey interactions.

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