until things stabilize. Offhand, I can’t think of a straighter path to overshoot than artificially boosting the land’s carrying capacity with methods that are intrinsically temporary, while messing up the biological basis for its original carrying capacity. So good luck with that. The Bottom Line: Environments impose upper population limits for all species based on space, energy and resources. These limits define the Carrying Capacity.
The Law of the Minimum
Summary: In nature, energy is THE key input into individual organism and ecosystem growth, but it’s not the ONLY input. If an organism has plenty of energy (food) but no access to water, safety, heat, mates, etc. its genes will soon die out. Liebig’s Law (an ecological principle named after a famous c hemist) illustrates that an organism’s (or societies’) growth is limited by its least-available necessary input. This concept can be illustrated by showing a barrel of water, with “staves” of uneven lengths, allowing water to pour out to the level of the shortest stave.
If we use a tree sapling as an example, it requires sunlight, phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium in the soil, adequate water, and various other micronutrients and environmental conditions. In situations where the plant has plenty of water and sunshine but lacks a key nutrient (nitrogen in barrel shown left), its ability to grow will be capped by that unavailability. In the tree’s case, the “water in the barrel” can only go as high as its limiting input, irrespective of how much sunlight there is.
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