Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo
Concepts of Biology

Chapter Summary

Concepts of BiologyChapter Summary

19.1 Population Demographics and Dynamics

Populations are individuals of a species that live in a particular habitat. Ecologists measure characteristics of populations: size, density, and distribution pattern. Life tables are useful to calculate life expectancies of individual population members. Survivorship curves show the number of individuals surviving at each age interval plotted versus time.

19.2 Population Growth and Regulation

Populations with unlimited resources grow exponentially—with an accelerating growth rate. When resources become limiting, populations follow a logistic growth curve in which population size will level off at the carrying capacity.

Populations are regulated by a variety of density-dependent and density-independent factors. Life-history characteristics, such as age at first reproduction or numbers of offspring, are characteristics that evolve in populations just as anatomy or behavior can evolve over time. The model of r- and K-selection suggests that characters, and possibly suites of characters, may evolve adaptations to population stability near the carrying capacity (K-selection) or rapid population growth and collapse (r-selection). Species will exhibit adaptations somewhere on a continuum between these two extremes.

19.3 The Human Population

Earth’s human population is growing exponentially. Humans have increased their carrying capacity through technology, urbanization, and harnessing the energy of fossil fuels. The age structure of a population allows us to predict population growth. Unchecked human population growth could have dire long-term effects on human welfare and Earth’s ecosystems.

19.4 Community Ecology

Communities include all the different species living in a given area. The variety of these species is referred to as biodiversity. Many organisms have developed defenses against predation and herbivory, including mechanical defenses, warning coloration, and mimicry. Two species cannot exist indefinitely in the same habitat competing directly for the same resources. Species may form symbiotic relationships such as commensalism, mutualism, or parasitism. Community structure is described by its foundation and keystone species. Communities respond to environmental disturbances by succession: the predictable appearance of different types of plant species, until a stable community structure is established.

Order a print copy

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Apr 26, 2024 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.