Carrying Capacity

M A Hixon, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Conclusions Further Reading

Basic Ecology Applied Ecology

Carrying capacity is typically defined as the maximum population size that can be supported indefinitely by a given environment. The simplicity of this definition belies the complexity of the concept and its application. There are at least four closely related but nonetheless different uses of the term in basic ecology, and at least half a dozen additional definitions in applied ecology.

ceases. That is, the unused growth potential lowers the effective value of r (i.e., the per capita birth rate minus the per capita death rate) until the per capita growth rate equals zero (i.e., births = deaths) at K. The result is a sigmoid population growth curve (Figure 1). Despite its use in ecological models, including basic fisheries and wildlife yield models, the logistic equation is highly

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