Population Growth: Problems & Logistics

Instructor: Ebony Potts

Ebony has taught middle and high school physical science, life science & biology. She's also been an assistant principal and has a doctorate in educational administration.

What is a population? What can happen to the environment and the organisms if the population grows too fast? You will learn the answers to these questions and other facts related to populations and their growth in this lesson.


Example of an American Family.
African-American Family

A population is any group of organisms of the same species, living in and depending on, a specific area for all of its needs. Did you know that in the late 1800s the average American Family consisted of five family members? By the early 1900s the average family in the U.S. had dropped to four family members. By the mid to late 1900s the average American family had dropped to three and then closer to two family members. What was contributing to the changes in family and population in the U.S? Did you know that in China the government actually adopted a policy that limits most couples to only have one child? Both the U.S. and Chinese occurrences are examples of limits that were being placed on a population, one was government enforced and the other was self inflicted. Why would an organism want to restrict population growth? Are there limits placed on the populations of other organisms that occur naturally? In this lesson, we'll take a look at the answers to population growth issues.

What Is a Limiting Factor?

No population of organisms can grow uncontrollably. Limiting factors, are anything that places restrictions on how large a population can grow. The example above demonstrates a trend that occurred in American families. Nuclear families in America have shrunk over time. Why? What problems do large families face? Could it be the cost of food? What about the cost of housing? All organisms have a 'cost' associated with obtaining their needs. Humans have to spend money on their needs, while animals spend different resources, like time and energy, obtaining their needs. These are all 'cost.' These costs often act as limiting factors.

If a family does not have the means to obtain a substantial amount of money, having a large family can become a disadvantage. If the food an animal eats starts to become scarce, having many offspring can become a disadvantage. This is how limiting factors influence population numbers. Resources are limited in every environment. Food, water, shelter, soil and hunting space are all examples of resources. When a population grows, these things become even more limited. Could this be why China has taken such drastic steps to control its human population? How will the government afford healthcare, work on roads or facilitate efficient transportation if one of the most populous countries has even more inhabitants?

Carrying Capacity

What will happen initially to any population if they have all of the food, water, air, and living space (limiting factors) they need for the time being? Well, the population will grow! However, as a population grows, resource, such as jobs, food, water, shelter, soil, and hunting space, can become depleted. No environment has an unlimited amount of resources. As a population gets larger, the organisms in the population start to compete for the limited resources. Some organisms win the fight, but others lose. Think about the things that can happen to a population when they start to run out of living space and become over-crowed. Disease is one of the limiting factors that grows as a population reaches its environments' upper limit for that population, or carrying capacity. What happens to the population as more of its members carry disease and lose the competition for resources? As an environment reaches its carrying capacity, some of them will die, and the population will decrease.

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