Carrying Capacity

Carrying Capacity - fluctuations 2) human populations can...

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Carrying Capacity Concept of carrying capacity takes several forms in both biology and anthropology As Dewar reading explains, in bioecology concept usually refers to K = equilibrium population size (regardless of the factors producing this eqilibrium) In anthropology, by contrast, carrying capacity usually refers to ability of environment to support human population on sustained basis (Dewar's "Cc") Main uses of carrying capacity concept in ecol. anthro: a) to determine if population and resources are in balance b) to predict equilibrium or prehistoric population size c) to explain cultural features as adaptations that maintain equilibrium (population "self- regulation") d) to explain cultural features as adaptations allowing or responding to increase in population size ("population pressure") Note that a) and b) are descriptive, while c) and d) are explanatory Two basic problems in using carrying capacity concept: 1) limiting factors (climate, food resources, etc.) subject to rapid & unpredictable
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Unformatted text preview: fluctuations 2) human populations can alter their own carrying capacity First problem is complex, but its clear that given our long generation length and offspring dependency, humans can't track short-term fluctuations in limiting factors; at best, we are adapted to some medium-term minimum Second problem relates to choice and flexibility, and capacity for behavioral and cultural change: alterations of technology, economic organization, rules of land use, even religious beliefs can significantly alter equilibrium population size in a given area This means that K is niche-specific, not set by environment per se; according to Joel Cohen (1995:343), this is a uniquely human attribute However, some would argue this is a matter of degree, since non-human species also respond to population pressure ( N approaching K ) with niche shifts and other behavioral and/or physiological changes that in turn alter K...
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