In ecological terms, the carrying capacity of an ecosystem is the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely upon the available resources and services of that ecosystem.
In the broader sense, carrying capacity also means that all plants and animals which an area of the Earth can support at once.
Carrying capacity is the maximum population size that an ecosystem can sustainably support without degrading the ecosystem.
Deaths and long term damage to an ecosystem occurs when a population exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecosystem.
Following factors affect carrying capacity of ecosystem.
- predator-prey interaction,
- resource use and
- the number of populations in an ecosystem all
The Importance of Carrying Capacity
- Economic Planning: Through careful analysis of resource availability and requirements of economy appropriate strategies can be developed for optimal use of resources while minimising adverse ecological impacts.
- Population Control: based on the carrying capacity of a region. For example, fertile Gangetic plains can support a higher population but the same population growth is unsustainable in the Himalayan region. Thus population policy has to be tweaked accordingly.
- Biodiversity Conservation: National Parks and Wildlife sanctuaries need a balance between animal population and prey base/ resources available. Animal population beyond the carrying capacity of forests leads to man-animal conflicts
- Agriculture Management: agriculture practices must reflect the carrying capacity of the soil water-scarce regions growing water-intensive crops is a recipe for ecological disaster.
- Urban Planning:Every urban area must provide some basic urban amenities. Growth of population beyond carrying capacity of Urban services leads to development of slums, pollution, inadequate waste and sewage disposal, etc. It diminishes the living standards in urban areas and has long term health impacts on inhabitants.
- Food security:Today we have more population that our food resources human feed adequately. We have already passed our carrying capacity, but if it continues further, we are in danger of widespread food shortage.
What needs to be done
- Urban planning should include a study on carrying capacity of the city and adjoining region.
- Awareness creation among people to reduce wastage (to avert crisis due to carrying capacity)
- Protection of natural forests (which have high carrying capacity)