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Carrying Capacity

( Article Type: Explanation )

Carrying capacity, in the case of organisms, is the maximum number of organisms that can be supported, fed or is able to survive in any specific habitat or ecosystem without causing the breakdown of the habitat or ecosystem. For example, the carrying capacity of a lift might be five people. That would be governed by the weight of those five people. Similarly, carrying capacity might be affected by the capacity of chemicals within a system to react with substances added.

For example, excessive phosphates could exceed the carrying capacity of an ecosystem and cause it to function in an imbalanced mode. Understanding the limits of an ecosystem is important when considering sustainable development, because one needs to know the maximum carrying capacity so that one can manage the number of organisms and keep those numbers below the maximum to prevent the system breaking down.

It is not, for example, known what the carrying capacity of the earth is with regard to human population, but it is known that we are stretching the limits of some of the resources that the earth needs to supply the requirements of humankind.