Environments are designed for a specific number of individuals. The number of individuals that occupy an area are very important in the study of biology. In this lesson, we will examine population density to determine its significance.
Definition of Population Density
In biology, populations are groups of individuals belonging to the same species that live in the same region at the same time. Population density is a measure of the number of organisms that make up a population in a defined area.Population density applies to all organisms on Earth, including the plants that make up vast crops, trees of the jungle, animals on the farm, fish in the ocean, and humans on the planet. No matter where a population of organisms lives, those organisms make up the population density for a given area.
Significance of Population Density
Have you ever been in an overcrowded elevator? It is not an ideal situation. It gets hot, stuffy, and very uncomfortable. Certainly, no one would want to try to live in, or survive continuously in, overcrowded conditions. This is true in biology as well. Ecosystems function best when they have the correct number of organisms making up a population to utilize the resources available.
This ideal number of a population is known in biology as the carrying capacity.Populations change over time due to births, deaths, and the dispersal of individuals. Populations often increase greatly when conditions are favorable and resources are plentiful. The maximum rate that a population can increase during optimal conditions is called biotic potential.
We know that in most instances conditions are not ideal. Things such as climate, food, water availability, and other factors keep populations in check. Competition and predation also work as biological means of regulating populations.If you have ever lived on or visited a farm, you have seen population density at work. Farmers have to control the amount of crops or animals they can maintain based on the amount of land they have available. For example, corn is typically planted in such a way that there are 17,000 to 20,000 plants per acre. Studies have shown that this is the optimal population density for corn.
Imagine what could happen if a farmer mistakenly planted 30,000 seeds of corn per acre. This would mean many more plants competing for space, water, and nutrients. It would ultimately result in a much less successful crop and most likely in the death or stunted growth of many of the plants.
Habitats have been damaged all over the world when too many organisms are packed into a small area. It is crucial to understand that ecosystems have limits and can only support populations of certain sizes. If a population gets too large for the area, the ecosystem will be strained and eventually part of the population will die.
The population density of organisms determines how successful they will be and what effects they will have on their environment.In biology, populations are a group of individuals belonging to the same species that live in the same region at the same time. Population density is a measure of the number of organisms that make up a population in a defined area.The correct number of organisms making up a population to utilize the resources available is called a carrying capacity.
The maximum rate that a population can increase during optimal conditions is called biotic potential.
Find out how well you can accomplish these objectives when this lesson ends:
- Write the definition of population density from memory
- Interpret the meaning of the carrying capacity of a population’s environment
- List some ways in which populations are regulated
- Describe biotic potential