What Is a Limiting Factor in Ecology?

In ecology, limiting factors are environmental variables that can determine or negatively affect the population of different organisms or species in an ecosystem. Limiting factors can be either abiotic or biotic variables. In an ecosystem, some abiotic factors that can have a limiting effect on species are light, temperature, soil type and water.

Abiotic factors can vary depending on the location of the specific ecosystem. For example, abiotic factors are different in a desert and deciduous temperate forest ecosystems, In a desert, there is little water and temperatures are high. Similarly, abiotic factors can determine the specific species that can exist in any given biome or environment.

Biotic factors include parasitism, food competition, predation and disease. Predator-prey relationships in an ecosystem can either cause an increase or decrease in a given population. For example, if there is an abundant prey population, then the population of predators can increase. Alternatively, a decrease in prey population can negatively impact the predator population.