[Explained] Carrying Capacity and Environmental Stochasticity

Carrying Capacity

Linkage of Carrying Capacity with various developmental activities
Linkage of Carrying Capacity with various developmental activities

Populations do not continue to grow exponentially for very long. An environment can carry or sustain only a limited size of population. This limit is a constant K and is called carrying capacity. It is the maximum number of individuals which the environment can support or sustain.

The carrying capacity is set by the food supply or by some other critical resource in short supply. At its varying capacity, the population ceases to grow and ΔN/Δt is equal to zero.

The conceptual model for carrying capacity comprises:

 1. Supportive capacity

It is the ability to allow withdrawal of resources like raw materials, water human infrastructure, without causing lasting damage to environment.


2. Assimilative capacity 

It is the ability to absorb without ill effects. Carrying capacity of a region is described as the number of persons that can be supported by a unit area of land while assimilating the wastes. These activities have necessitated an ever increasing demand on resources.

Carrying capacity, like most other environmental attributes is subject to change. This could  be in consequences to natural evolutionary forces transforming both physical resources and composition of life forms.

Also see, Everything you need to know about Population Growth for a broader understanding of population growth.

Environmental Stochasticity

The carrying capacity of the environment can fluctuate in response to environmental conditions such as weather. As a result many real populations experience unpredictable fluctuations in numbers in response to good years and bad years.

These populations are said to experience environmental stochasticity. They are regulated by deterministic density- dependent processes. Small, short-lived organisms are more likely to show dramatic fluctuations in numbers than large, long lived organisms which are more tolerant to environmental variation.

Types of Population Pyramids [also known as Age Pyramids]  and Population Growth Curve are also highly relevant topic related to the study of population.

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