Carrying Capacity and Ecological Footprint

The carrying capacity of an environment is the maximum population size of a human that can be sustained by that specific environment ecosystem or region. While ecological footprint is the human demand on natural capital, i.e. the quantity of nature it takes to support people and their economies. So carrying capacity is the total supply of natural wealth while ecological footprint is the demand or consumption per person. Thus if population increases then the resources get depleted. Rich counties have higher ecological footprint while poor nations have low.

Carrying capacity can be defined as a species’ average population size in a particular habitat. The species population size is limited by environmental factors like adequate food, shelter, water, and mates. If these needs are not met, the population will decrease until the resource rebounds.

In ecology, carrying capacity is measured as the maximum load of an environment. The physical features present in the environment act as limiting factors (e.g. food, water, competition, etc.). Thus, the population limit can be expected to depend on these factors. In essence, food availability is an important variable as it affects the population size of the species. It does so in such a way that if food demand is not met over a given period of time the population size will eventually decrease until the resources become adequate. By contrast, when food supply exceeds demand then the population size will soon increase and will stop increasing when the source is consequently depleted.

Carrying capacity may also be defined as the population size at which the population growth rate equals zero. It should not be confused with the term, equilibrium population, which is defined as a population in which the gene frequencies have reached an equilibrium between mutation pressure and selection pressure. 

Ecological footprint (EF), measure of the demands made by a person or group of people on global natural resources. It has become one of the most widely used measures of humanity’s effect upon the environment and has been used to highlight both the apparent unsustainability of current practices and the inequalities in resource consumption between and within countries.

The ecological footprint (EF) estimates the biologically productive land and sea area needed to provide the renewable resources that a population consumes and to absorb the wastes it generates—using prevailing technology and resource-management practices—rather than trying to determine how many people a given land area or the entire planet can support. It measures the requirements for productive areas (croplands, grazing lands for animal products, forested areas to produce wood products, marine areas for fisheries, built-up land for housing and infrastructure, and forested land needed to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption). 

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