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What is biological weathering?

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Quick Answer

Biological weathering is the effect that living organisms, such as plants and animals, have on rocks and other inanimate objects. This phenomena happens due to the molecular breakdown of minerals in the rock. When biological weathering occurs, the living organism breaks down the rock or other nonliving object through either mechanical or chemical erosion or the use of both.

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What is biological weathering?
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An example of mechanical biological weathering is tree roots growing through a rock, slowly prying it apart or breaking the rock into pieces. Once the tree roots create the holes for the roots to go through, the roots can leech the nutrients from the rock. Another example is an animal that secretes an acid or bores its way into a rock by slowly eroding the space and sliding into it. Either of these methods works to dissolve the rock over time. Organisms such as bacteria, algae and lichen secrete chemicals that work to break down the rocks on which they live. This provides for the slow dissolution of the rock while the organism is still pulling the nutrients it needs to survive from the rock. Organisms such as moss, lichen and algae primarily are found near water sources where the climate is humid, damp and shaded. In this type of climate the organism can grow unimpeded.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is the difference between weathering and erosion?

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    The primary difference between weathering and erosion is that weathering refers to the erosion of natural substances without movement, while erosion includes movement of particles and surface materials. Weathering and erosion take place in the same locations and affect the same landforms, but erosion involves the movement of loosened particles and surface materials downwards via the force of gravity. Particles, such as small pieces of rock, sand and dirt dislodge during erosion, which requires a triggering force, typically wind, rain or ice.

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  • Q:

    What is mechanical weathering?

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    Mechanical weathering is the erosion of rock caused by physical processes. Extreme temperature changes and constant exposure to water or air are common causes of mechanical weathering.

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  • Q:

    How does weathering affect limestone?

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    Weathering creates underground caves and passages in limestone in addition to depressions and other unusual dips and grooves on the surface. Karst is landscape formed from the weathering of limestone.

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  • Q:

    What are types of weathering?

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    Weathering refers to the process of wearing away, dissolving or breaking down rocks that are found near or at the surface of the Earth. National Geographic notes three types of weathering processes: mechanical, chemical and biological or organic.

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