What is carrying capacity ?

1 Answer
Sep 20, 2014

The carrying capacity of a species is the maximum population of that species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given available resources. It acts as an upper limit on population growth functions.

On a graph, assuming that the population growth function is depicted with the independent variable (usually #t# in cases of population growth) on the horizontal axis, and the dependent variable (the population, in this case #f(x)#) on the vertical axis, the carrying capacity will be a horizontal asymptote.

In the normal course of events, barring extreme circumstances, the population will not surpass the carrying capacity. However, some extreme circumstances (such as the sudden influx of more members of the population from external areas, along with certain natural cyclic variations) can cause the population to temporarily exceed the carrying capacity. This leads to a sharp decrease in the population (a "population crash") as resources become more scarce, leading to starvation and dehydration, as well as deaths caused by fighting over the now-scarce resources.