In this lesson, you will learn what aquatic ecosystems are. You will also learn about the abiotic factors that affect them, from light levels, to flow rate, to salinity.
When you look at the planet Earth from a distance, what do you see? The first thing an alien might notice while flying by our planet is its color: Earth is the blue planet because it’s covered with water.
In fact, 71% of Earth’s surface is water, so the aquatic ecosystems found here are a big part of the cycle of life.An aquatic ecosystem is an ecosystem that is found in water. There are many types of aquatic ecosystems: rivers, lakes, ponds, wetlands, shallow seas and deep oceans. There are marine ecosystems found in saltwater seas and oceans, and freshwater ecosystems found in rivers and lakes. Humans have a tendency to undervalue these ecosystems because we ourselves are land mammals. But we are intimately connected to aquatic ecosystems in ways that many people don’t appreciate.
For example, rivers and lakes give us fresh water to drink, provide fish for us to eat, prevent flooding, and support other ecosystems on land through complex food webs.The biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems is one of Earth’s greatest treasures. When you hear the word biodiversity, what comes to mind? One of the first things people think about is the rainforests. The rainforests contain huge amounts of biodiversity, and more species than we will probably ever be able to catalog. But did you know that similar biodiversity can be found in the oceans? For example, coral reefs have been described as the rainforests of the sea because they are home to a huge array of marine life. But coral reefs, like aquatic ecosystems, are easily affected by outside factors.
In this lesson, we’ll talk about a few factors that impact aquatic ecosystems. Specifically, abiotic factors and how they affect aquatic life. These are the factors that cause a deep ocean to be totally different from a shallow lake.
Abiotic Factors of Aquatic Ecosystems
Abiotic factors are components of a natural environment that are not alive. In other words, physical or chemical parts of the environment that affect the organisms that are in that environment.
For aquatic ecosystems, these factors include light levels, water flow rate, temperature, dissolved oxygen, acidity (pH), salinity and depth.Light level is an important factor in aquatic ecosystems. Light is needed by plants for photosynthesis, the process where plants turn light into energy. Light can affect the success of predators at finding food, and directly affects how much life you find in a given area. In fact, when swimming and diving tourists stir up sediment as they explore, they can damage shallow water ecosystems simply by reducing the amount of light that reaches them.Another important factor is the water flow rate. Many organisms can only survive at certain water flow rates, and struggle when rates are too high or too low.
The flow of water is responsible for moving oxygen into some organisms’ gills, and even helps food like plankton flow into the mouths of other aquatic animals.Temperature is just as important for aquatic ecosystems as it is for land animals. Just like how humans don’t operate as well when they are too cold or too hot, the metabolic rate of organisms under water is also affected by temperature. This is because organisms are adapted to survive in specific temperature ranges.Oxygen content in water is something humans don’t think about much because we can’t breathe underwater. For aquatic ecosystems however, it is a very big deal.
This is because aquatic organisms often breathe through gills and receive oxygen directly from the water. Faster flowing water in rivers and streams contains more oxygen because more air gets mixed in.Acidity or pH, is another factor that has an impact. Acids are materials that contain positive hydrogen ions. They’re also a product of much of human industry.
In fact, coral reefs are currently collapsing because the seas are becoming more acidic from industrial pollution. Animals that are used to surviving at a particular pH are not able to adapt to the highly acidic water that is being influenced by human actions.Salinity, which is a measure of water’s saltiness, has always affected aquatic ecosystems. The species that you find in freshwater rivers and lakes is very different from the species that you find in oceans. So if we take action that causes the salinity to change it will affect aquatic ecosystems.Last of all is depth: the species you find in shallow water are very different than those you find in deep water. In fact, if you go down far enough to where hardly any sunlight reaches, you’ll find all kinds of weird and wonderful marine animals, from anglerfish that seem to have their own fishing rod built into their heads, to strange white fish with pale bodies and no eyes.
How Abiotic Factors Affect Ecosystems
All of these abiotic factors affect how life develops in aquatic ecosystems. Lakes and ponds are home to insects, tiny invertebrates, fish, amphibians like frogs, and reptiles like snakes, alligators, and turtles. Rivers are also home to these animals, but may contain very different species that can handle the fast-moving water. Shallow seas contain more plants and animals that rely on the sun, whereas deeper parts of oceans contain animals that have adapted to life in the dark.
Many of these abiotic factors are influenced by human actions. When we release pollution into the atmosphere, we don’t always think about how that may be absorbed by the water. But the consequences of can be terrible for aquatic ecosystems.
An aquatic ecosystem is an ecosystem that is found in water, from saltwater oceans to freshwater streams. Most of Earth’s surface is covered with water, and some aquatic ecosystems contain biodiversity comparable to the rainforests.
There are many factors that affect these ecosystems and the life that can be successful there.Abiotic factors are parts of an environment that are not alive, but that affect the ecosystem. Factors that affect aquatic ecosystems include water flow rate, salinity, acidity, oxygen, light levels, depth, and temperature. Light levels affect photosynthesizing plants and predation. Oxygen content and water flow rates affect the oxygen intake and food received by animals.
Changes in acidity can damage marine life, and marine animals and plants are often adapted to particular temperatures, salinities, and depths. When we change any of these factors, we impact aquatic ecosystems.