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The carrying capacity of ecosystems

del Monte-Luna, P., Brook, Barry W., Zetina-Rejon, M. J. and Cruz-Escalona, V. H. (2004). The carrying capacity of ecosystems. Global Ecology and Biogeography,13(6):485-495.

Document type: Journal Article
Citation counts: Scopus Citation Count Cited 38 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Title The carrying capacity of ecosystems
Author del Monte-Luna, P.
Brook, Barry W.
Zetina-Rejon, M. J.
Cruz-Escalona, V. H.
Journal Name Global Ecology and Biogeography
Publication Date 2004
Volume Number 13
Issue Number 6
ISSN 0960-7447   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-8644290931
Start Page 485
End Page 495
Total Pages 11
Place of Publication Oxford, England
Publisher Blackwell Publishing
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DEST)
Abstract We analyse the concept of carrying capacity (CC), from populations to the biosphere, and offer a definition suitable for any level. For communities and ecosystems, the CC evokes density-dependence assumptions analogous to those of population dynamics. At the biosphere level, human CC is uncertain and dynamic, leading to apprehensive rather than practical conclusions. The term CC is widely used among ecological disciplines but remains vague and elusive. We propose the following definition: the CC is 'the limit of growth or development of each and all hierarchical levels of biological integration, beginning with the population, and shaped by processes and interdependent relationships between finite resources and the consumers of those resources'. The restrictions of the concept relate to the hierarchical approach. Emergent properties arise at each level, and environmental heterogeneity restrains the measurement and application of the CC. Because the CC entails a myriad of interrelated, ever-changing biotic and abiotic factors, it must not be assumed constant, if we are to derive more effective and realistic management schemes. At the ecosystem level, stability and resilience are dynamic components of the CC. Historical processes that help shape global biodiversity (e.g. continental drift, glaciations) are likely drivers of large-scale changes in the earth's CC. Finally, world population growth and consumption of resources by humanity will necessitate modifications to the paradigm of sustainable development, and demand a clear and fundamental understanding of how CC operates across all biological levels.
Keywords biosphere
hierarchy theory
renewable resource management
sustainable development
california current system
life-history strategies
statistical inevitability
interannual variability
biological diversity
renewable resources
aquatic ecosystems
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