What Is Population Density? - Definition & Explanation

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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.

Environments are designed for a specific number of individuals. The number of individuals that occupy an area are very important in the study of biology. In this lesson, we will examine population density to determine its significance.

Definition of Population Density

In biology, populations are groups of individuals belonging to the same species that live in the same region at the same time. Population density is a measure of the number of organisms that make up a population in a defined area.

Population density applies to all organisms on Earth, including the plants that make up vast crops, trees of the jungle, animals on the farm, fish in the ocean, and humans on the planet. No matter where a population of organisms lives, those organisms make up the population density for a given area.

Significance of Population Density

Have you ever been in an overcrowded elevator? It is not an ideal situation. It gets hot, stuffy, and very uncomfortable. Certainly, no one would want to try to live in, or survive continuously in, overcrowded conditions. This is true in biology as well. Ecosystems function best when they have the correct number of organisms making up a population to utilize the resources available. This ideal number of a population is known in biology as the carrying capacity.

Populations change over time due to births, deaths, and the dispersal of individuals. Populations often increase greatly when conditions are favorable and resources are plentiful. The maximum rate that a population can increase during optimal conditions is called biotic potential.

We know that in most instances conditions are not ideal. Things such as climate, food, water availability, and other factors keep populations in check. Competition and predation also work as biological means of regulating populations.

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