the carrying capacity in an ecosystem is most likely to change after a major
There are four variables which govern changes in population size. births deaths immigration emigration A population gains individuals by birth and immigration and loses individuals by death and emigration. Biotic Potential Populations vary in their capacity to grow. The maximum rate at which a population can increase when resources are unlimited and environmental conditions are ideal is termed the population's biotic potential. Each species will have a different biotic potential due to variations in the species' reproductive span (how long an individual is capable of reproducing) the frequency of reproduction (how often an individual can reproduce) "litter size" (how many offspring are born each time) survival rate (how many offspring survive to reproductive age) There are always limits to population growth in nature. Populations cannot grow exponentially indefinitely. Exploding populations always reach a size limit imposed by the shortage of one or more factors such as water, space, and nutrients or by adverse conditions such as disease, drought and temperature extremes. The factors which act jointly to limit a population's growth are termed the environmental resistance. The interplay of biotic potential and density-dependent environmental resistance keeps a population in balance. Carrying Capacity For a given region, carrying capacity is the maximum number of individuals of a given species that an area's resources can sustain indefinitely without significantly depleting or degrading those resources. Determining the carrying capacities for most organisms is fairly straightforward. For humans carrying capacity is much more complicated. The definition is expanded to include not degrading our cultural and social environments and not harming the physical environment in ways that would adversely affect future generations. For populations which grow exponentially, growth starts out slowly, enters a rapid growth phase and then levels off when the carrying capacity for that species has been reached. The size of the population then fluctuates slightly above or below the carrying capacity. Reproductive lag time may cause the population to overshoot the carrying capacity temporarily. Reproductive lag time is the time required for the birth rate to decline and the death rate to increase in response to resource limits. In this scenario, the population will suffer a crash or dieback to a lower level near the carrying capacity unless a large number of individuals can emigrate to an area with more favorable conditions. An area's carrying capacity is not static. The carrying capacity may be lowered by resource destruction and degradation during an overshoot period or extended through technological and social changes. An example of dieback occurred in Ireland after a fungus infection destroyed the potato crop in 1845. During this potato famine approximately 1 million people died and 3 million people emigrated to other countries. Increased food production due to improved agricultural practices, control of many diseases by modern medicine and the use of energy to make historically uninhabitable areas of Earth inhabitable are examples of things which can extend carrying capacity. The question is how long will we be able to keep increasing our population on a planet with finite size and resources?