Abiotic factors of plant ecology: Definition and types


Each place on the earth has a different climate and has different geo-natural diversity therefore the study of plant ecology is very important. Plants adapt differently to different regions and thus maintain their existence through propagation. But many times the species is not able to adapt to this. Then the new species wants to build its existence by removing the old species from that place or environment. In this way, one species after another continues to dominate over time and space. Thus no single species can survive indefinitely in the same environment. Plant ecology is the process by which plants maintain their adaptive existence over a specific period (1). This topic is all about the abiotic factors of plant ecology.


Plant ecology is a part of ecology that studies the interrelationships between plant species members, the distribution and abundance of plants, and their interactions with the environment.

There are aspects of plant ecology in the study of the geography of plants and the incredible flora, plant populations, and the interrelationships between plant communities and their respective environments (3).

Abiotic factors of plant ecology

Plant ecology abiotic factors

There are mainly two types of factors that construct ecosystems these are biotic and abiotic factors. Biotic factors are all the living factors whereas abiotic factors are the nonliving factors. All these elements play an important role in plant reproduction, growth, development physiological activities, etc. These abiotic factors play a special role in the formation of plant ecology (2). These abiotic factors are as follows

1. Sunlight

Sunlight is the only source of light on the earth’s surface and it has limitless importance. Because without sunlight plants and animals can’t survive. Sunlight plays an important role in the growth, development, and various physiological activities of plants. The role of sunlight in the plant world is as follows

  1. In the presence of sunlight, green plants prepare complex foods like glucose by the process of photosynthesis with the help of CO₂ and H₂O in the mesophyll tissue of the leaves.
  2. Since the temperature has a direct relationship with sunlight therefore with an increase in the intensity of sunlight the temperature also increases. As a result, the rate of evaporation of plants increases and plants absorb more water.
  3. The opening and closing of the plant’s stomata depend on sunlight. The conduction of such stomata increases the rate of evaporation of plants.
  4. The thermal effects of sunlight on different parts of the earth’s surface are not equal. Therefore, differences can be observed between different species of plants.
  5. The role of sunlight in the overall growth of different parts of the plant is significant. Moreover, the intensity, nature, and duration of light have different effects on plants and help in the overall growth of different parts of the plant (1) & (3).

2. Temperature

The role of temperature is very important for the growth of plants as they grow in a wide area at a certain height. Temperature is the deciding factor for many fruit-bearing plants. some fruits ripes in cold temperatures (oranges, pears), and some ripes in hot temperatures like mangos and jackfruits, etc. Many flowers that bloom in winter begin to bloom after autumn and fall in spring. The special role of temperature in plant growth is

1. The physiological function of plants is regulated by temperature. The physiological processes of plants such as evaporation rate, respiration rate, seed germination, photosynthesis, etc. depend on temperature.

2. Temperature controls the activity of different enzymes in plants, so the various chemical metabolism of plant enzymes depends on temperature.

3. Both very high and very low temperatures are harmful to plant growth. When the temperature drops too much, the water stored in the cellular system of the plant becomes ice. As a result, the plant cells are damaged. At very high temperatures plant protein enzymes are destroyed and various physiological activities of plants are stopped.

4. The distribution of plants on the surface is regulated due to changes in temperature. For example, as the distance from the equator moves towards the polar region, the distribution of different species of plants is formed due to changes in latitude and temperature (3).

3. Precipitation & humidity

Precipitation and humidity have a special role in the growth and development of plants. The soil gets water by precipitation and the plants later absorb this water for its physiological activity. The shape and size of plants are also affected by the humidity. It has been observed that in areas with high rainfall, the trees grow taller and the leaves grow larger. On the other hand, where the amount of rainfall is very low, the size of the trees is small and the leaves are also narrow. Even the leaves of the trees in the desert turn into thorns. The role of precipitation and humidity on plants is discussed below.

1. Water is essential for the physiological and other functions of plants. This water is obtained by precipitation. Trees take this water from the soil with the help of roots and use it for themselves.

2. The main component of plant body cells is the protoplasm, which requires water to make. Because the protoplasm contains 65% to 70% water.

3. Plant species are determined according to water needs. For example, if the amount of rainfall is high throughout the year, the color of the leaves of the tree becomes green, that is it becomes evergreen. On the other hand, when it rains for a certain period of time, a deciduous forest is formed.

4. The structure and shape of plants are determined by the humidity of the atmosphere (1) & (3).

4. Wind

Wind controls the germination, growth, and distribution of plants. The effect of wind on plants is discussed below.

1. When the wind blows at high speed, the branches of the plant break off and in many cases, it is uprooted.

2. In areas where strong winds blow in a certain direction throughout the year, the branches of the plant bend permanently towards the wind. As a result, the structure of the plant is distorted and the normal growth of the plant is disrupted.

3. When sand particles, salt particles, and ice particles flow with the wind, they damage different parts of the plant.

4. More humid air reduces the rate of evaporation and transpiration of plants. More dry air causes the plants to lack water, so the plants cannot grow much.

5. The wind spreads plant seeds, pollen, etc. around and thus influences the distribution of the plant (2).

5. Rock

The geological structure of a place has a special effect on the birth and development of the plants. There are some special rocks like limestone, dolomite, and laterite which are not particularly suitable for growing plants. The soil formed from igneous rocks is sandy and not particularly suitable for water retention. However, there are some special sedimentary rocks that are ideal for growing plants due to their high water-holding capacity. So the geological structure of a place affects the plants of that place (1) & (3).

6. Topography

The topographical structure of a place controls the growth and development of plants in that area. The topographical structure indirectly affects the natural environment. The roles of topography on plant growth and development are as follows

1. In the hilly regions, climatic factors (temperature, air pressure, solar radiation, humidity) change with altitude. As a result, the adaptive differences in normal plants can also be noticed. The type of coniferous forest that can be seen on the high slopes of the hill is not found in the plains. On the other hand, the type of forest seen in the plains is not seen on the high slopes of the hills.

2. Heavy rainfall occurs on the windward slopes of mountains. On the slopes of the mountains due to direct sun rays and rain, the amount of vegetation can be seen more and it becomes less on the foothills.

3. Most of the sunlight is available on the high slopes of the mountains. As a result, different species of plants are observed. The amount of water flow depends on the nature of the slope. In high-altitude areas, the water goes down rapidly. This results in higher soil erosion and destruction of vegetation (2) & (3).

7. Soil

Soil is an important factor for plant growth. The effect of soil on plants is discussed below.

1. The formation of particles of different sizes like mud, silt, sand, etc. in the soil is called soil structure. Plant aeration, water infiltration, and even erosion depend on soil structure. Perforated granular soils are most suitable for plant growth.

2. Soil texture is the relative proportion of sand, silt, and mud in the soil. If the soil texture is unfavorable, the soil will not be fertile and cultivated. Among the different textures of the soil, loam soil is the best for cultivation.

3. Different types of soil have different water-holding capacities. For example, silt soils have a higher water-holding capacity. Sandy soils have very low water holding capacity so these soils are not suitable for cultivation. In many cases, the presence of salt in the soil reacts with water. As a result, the growth of plants is disrupted.

4. The bodies of plants and animals decompose in the soil to form organic matter. If the soil is rich in organic matter, the color of the soil is either black or dark brown. Porosity depends on the organic matter of the soil. Organic matter has a special role as a food source for plants (1).

The above abiotic factors regulate the various physiological activities, growth, and development of plants.


How many types of plants are there based on the requirement of sunlight?

According to the demand for sunlight, the plant is divided into two parts-

  1. Heliophytes
  2. Sciophytes

What are heliophytes?

The plants that grow under full sunlight are called heliophytes. Trees in arid regions are usually of this type. The leaves of this plant are small and curved.

What are sciophytes?

The plants that grow best in low-light environments are called sciophytes. The leaves of this plant are large, the leaf blades are flat and smooth. There are stomata on both of the leaves.

What are the types of plants based on temperature requirements?

Plants are divided into four classes based on temperature requirements-

  1. Megatherm
  2. Mesotherm
  3. Microtherm
  4. Hekistotherm

How many types of plants can be seen based on the necessity of water?

There are four types of plants based on the necessity of water

  1. Hydrophyte
  2. Mesophyte
  3. Xerophyte
  4. Halophyte

What is the difference between hydrophyte and mesophyte?

  1. Hydrophytes grow in incomplete or partial aquatic environments, but mesophytes grow in soils where the amount of water is not too much or too little.
  2. The roots of hydrophytes are not well-formed. On the other hand, the roots of mesophytes are well-formed.
  3. The stems of hydrophytes are not well-formed, but the stems of mesophytes are well-formed and woody in nature.

Written By: Manisha Bharati

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