By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Describe the effects of abiotic factors on the composition of plant and animal communities in aquatic biomes
- Compare the characteristics of the ocean zones
- Summarize the characteristics of standing water and flowing water in freshwater biomes
Like terrestrial biomes, aquatic biomes are influenced by abiotic factors. In the case of aquatic biomes the abiotic factors include light, temperature, flow regime, and dissolved solids. The aquatic medium—water— has different physical and chemical properties than air. Even if the water in a pond or other body of water is perfectly clear (there are no suspended particles), water, on its own, absorbs light. As one descends deep enough into a body of water, eventually there will be a depth at which the sunlight cannot reach. While there are some abiotic and biotic factors in a terrestrial ecosystem that shade light (like fog, dust, or insect swarms), these are not usually permanent features of the environment. The importance of light in aquatic biomes is central to the communities of organisms found in both freshwater and marine ecosystems because it controls productivity through photosynthesis.
In addition to light, solar radiation warms bodies of water and many exhibit distinct layers of water at differing temperatures. The water temperature affects the organisms’ rates of growth and the amount of dissolved oxygen available for respiration.
The movement of water is also important in many aquatic biomes. In rivers, the organisms must obviously be adapted to the constant movement of the water around them, but even in larger bodies of water such as the oceans, regular currents and tides impact availability of nutrients, food resources, and the presence of the water itself.
Finally, all natural water contains dissolved solids, or salts. Fresh water contains low levels of such dissolved substances because the water is rapidly recycled through evaporation and precipitation. The oceans have a relatively constant high salt content. Aquatic habitats at the interface of marine and freshwater ecosystems have complex and variable salt environments that range between freshwater and marine levels. These are known as brackish water environments. Lakes located in closed drainage basins concentrate salt in their waters and can have extremely high salt content that only a few and highly specialized species are able to inhabit.