Carrying capacity

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Definition of Carrying capacity:
1. Maximum population size expressed as total number of individuals, biomass, or population density that a given unit of habitat can support indefinitely without deterioration of the character and quality of the resource;
2. The level of use, at a given level of management, at which a natural or man-made resource can sustain itself over a long period of time.
This is the common definition for Carrying capacity, other definitions can be discussed in the article


The concept of carrying capacity incorporates:

  1. physical space,
  2. food and/or nutrient availability,
  3. waste removal/recycling,
  4. mortality factors,
  5. time or temporal factors,
  6. other factors.

Examples of carrying capacity:

  • The amount of a given activity that can be accommodated within the environmental capacity of a defined area (FAO);
  • The maximum level of recreational use, in terms of numbers of people and types of activity, that can be accommodated before the ecological value of the area declines;
  • The maximum quantity of fish that any particular body of water can support over a long period without negative effects to the fish and to the environment.

Related articles

Carrying capacity analysis