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Density-Independent Factors: Examples & Definition

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Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

Many things can limit the size of a population of organisms. In this lesson, we will explore density-independent factors to gain an understanding of what they are and how they work on populations.

Definition of Density-Independent Factors

Both living and non-living things can influence the size of a population of organisms. Some things that happen to populations, such as disease and parasites, depend on the size of the population to be successful at causing destruction. Things and events that limit the size of a population regardless of the density of the population are called density-independent factors.

The density of a population can be described as the number of organisms living in a specific area at a certain time. For example, a field with thousands of corn plants is much more densely populated than a field of the same size with an orchard of 40 fruit trees. Density-independent factors can affect a population of organisms no matter how small or large the population may be.

Examples of Density-Independent Factors

Most density-independent factors are abiotic, or nonliving. Some commonly used examples include temperature, floods, and pollution.

How could temperature be a factor in determining the density of a population? Imagine a heavily forested area that is home to a population of mosquitoes. It is well known that mosquitoes cannot survive in very cold temperatures. If a large cold front suddenly comes through the area and causes the temperature to drop, it would kill the entire population. It would not matter if there are 10 mosquitoes or 10,000; the cold weather would affect them all. This makes it a density-independent factor because population density does not matter.

Changes in temperature, such as cold fronts, are density-independent factors.
A picture of snowy weather.

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