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.