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Biological Weathering

Biological weathering is a type of weathering caused by plants, animals, and microbes. The root “bio” means “life”. So, biological weathering is caused by living organisms.

Small life can create big change!

Plant Weathering

Plant Acids

Plants are the biggest agent of biological weathering. One way in which they can break down rocks is through the production of acids. Many forms of plant life produce natural acids that break down rocks. Because this is a chemical reaction, this can also be considered chemical weathering.
Moss on a brick wall

The moss growing on this wall releases chemicals that break down the bricks!


Plants can also break apart rocks with sheer force! Their roots can grow into the cracks of rocks looking for food and water. As the plants continue to grow, their roots force the cracks to get wider and longer! This is a type of mechanical weathering.
Roots burst through a wall.

The roots of this tree force their way through the rocks to find food.

Other Agents of Biological Weathering

While plants do a lot of weathering in different forms, they aren’t the only ones doing biological weathering. Animals and microbes also play a role in breaking down rocks. They can break down rocks by digging into the ground and moving rocks to the surface. This exposes the rocks to other types of weathering!
Prairie dog in its hole.

A prairie dog playing his role in weathering

Remember, humans are animals, too! This means that we cause biological weathering as well! Humans help break down rocks every day. We do this all the time, whether we’re digging around in our backyard or mining for gold.
Image of a mine.

A lot of rock has been broken down by humans to create this oil mine.

Microbes can also break down rocks. Microbes grow on rocks and release chemicals that break down rocks. Some microbes even eat the broken down rocks! Lichen is a type of microbe that is made of fungi and algae. The fungi break down the rock minerals so that the algae can eat them!

Lichen-covered rocks

Lichen growing over some stones. Slowly, it will split them up.

Other Great Resources:

Types of Weathering-Biological – Plant and Soil Sciences eLibrary: http://passel.unl.edu/pages/informationmodule.php?idinformationmodule=1124303183&topicorder=5&maxto=6
Biological Weathering – Spoon Feed Me:

Written by: Jesus Cervantes.