Measuring abiotic factors

Abiotic factors are non-living variables that can influence where organisms can live.

Examples of abiotic factors include:

  • light intensity
  • temperature
  • soil pH
  • soil moisture

Light intensity

Light intensity can be measured using a light meter. Its light-sensitive panel contains sensors that trap the light to measure it, displaying the reading on its screen.

In order to work properly, care must be taken to keep the sensor steady, keep the meter out of shade and to make sure that the panel is facing the maximum sunlight available.

Light meter
The light meter is used by pointing in the direction of the maximum light intensity

Temperature

Air temperature can be measured using a standard thermometer to provide useful environmental information.

In order to work properly, care must be taken to keep it out of full shade.

Soil pH and moisture

The pH of soil, rainwater, and water in rivers and ponds can be measured using a soil pH meter.

Soil moisture levels can be measured using a soil moisture meter.

In both cases, a probe is pushed into the soil and the reading is displayed on its screen.

In order to work properly, care must be taken to make sure the probe is clean and dry before use and to keep the depth at which it is inserted into the ground consistent.

pH meter and probe and a soil meter showing a pH of 7.5
Soil moisture and soil pH meters use a probe to take readings

Equipment summary table

Abiotic factorsEquipmentTips to avoid errors
TemperatureStandard thermometerDon't shade it.
Light intensityLight meterDon't shade it. Position it facing maximum sunlight. Keep it steady.
Soil pHSoil pH meterMake sure the probe is dry and clean before use. Keep the probe at a consistent depth.
Soil moistureSoil moisture meterMake sure the probe is dry and clean before use. Keep the probe at a consistent depth.

curriculum-key-fact
Taking multiple readings in identical conditions and calculating an average increases the reliability of results.