What Determines Carrying Capacity?

The availability of food and water, the amount of shelter, predation and the capacity to absorb wastes all determine carrying capacity. The term carrying capacity refers to how many living organisms can live in a particular area without destroying that area's resources.

As the world population increases, there have been many discussions about the carrying capacity of the Earth. In particular, scientists often wonder if the planet can sustain the number of people living on it, without completely using up or destroying all its resources. To help figure this out, these scientists calculate the impact a person has by measuring their ecological footprint.

As the exact figures relate to how well people use their available resources, along with how fast the population grows and their use of technology, it can make determining the exact carrying capacity difficult. However, many areas of the world are showing signs that the Earth's carrying capacity is reaching its limit. For example, poverty-stricken countries like Somalia and Haiti do not have the proper resources to take care of their rapidly increasing population and because of that, people suffer.

Making it more difficult, some calculations show that the richest one-fifth of the population is responsible for using four-fifths of the planet's resources. While some may look to technology to come to the rescue, many more believe the world is overpopulated and that future populations will need to be reduced in order to supply people with what they need to survive.