AP Environmental Science : Carrying Capacity

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Environmental Science

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Carrying Capacity

K-strategist populations are more commonly regulated by ____________ limiting factors, and r-strategist populations are regulated by ___________ limiting factors.

Possible Answers:

density-independent, density-dependent

none of these

density-dependent, density-independent

density-independent, density-independent

density-dependent, density-dependent

Correct answer:

density-dependent, density-independent

Explanation:

K-strategist populations are more commonly regulated by density-dependent limiting factors. Their population sizes hover around a carrying capacity that is dependent on factors that increase in severity with the density of the population. On the other hand, r-strategist populations are regulated by density-independent limiting factors. They reproduce rapidly until a density-independent factor causes many of them to die.

Example Question #1 : Carrying Capacity

How is "cultural carrying capacity" different from "biological carrying capacity?"

Possible Answers:

Cultural carrying capacity describes the number of individuals that can exist alongside one another at a reasonable standard of living. Biological carrying capacity describes which species are able to coexist in a niche.

Cultural carrying capacity predicts which human populations (depending on factors such as location, weather, and level of city planning) are most likely to develop a set of customs and laws. Biological carrying capacity describes the carrying capacity of each household in the community. 

Cultural carrying capacity describes the ability of a human population to thrive and create culture in meager circumstances. Biological carrying capacity describes how many individuals can survive. 

Cultural carrying capacity predicts the amount of "melting pot influence" that a society can withstand while still holding on to cultural beliefs and traditions. Biological carrying capacity describes how many individuals can survive. 

Cultural carrying capacity describes the number of individuals that can exist alongside one another at a reasonable standard of living. Biological carrying capacity describes how many individuals can survive.

Correct answer:

Cultural carrying capacity describes the number of individuals that can exist alongside one another at a reasonable standard of living. Biological carrying capacity describes how many individuals can survive.

Explanation:

Cultural carrying capacity suggests that humans have secondary needs, such as entertainment, palatable food, and mental/spiritual development. These non-vital resources can only be spread equally among a population of a limited size. Cultural carrying capacity describes the limitation on population size after taking into account these factors. 

A frequent questions asked by sustainability scientists is: Should the optimum sustainable population be based on cultural carrying capacity? Many would agree yes, for the reason that when cultural capacity is transgressed, living conditions spiral downwards and life is reduced to the struggle for mere survival. In such conditions, human inventiveness and creativity become obsolete.

Example Question #3 : Carrying Capacity

What does a J curve represent on a population growth chart?

Possible Answers:

The maximum point of growth of a species

A species cycles up to carrying capacity, and then back down to the minimum

A species has reached the carrying capacity but continues to grow, creating a population explosion and a competition for resources

The correlation between a species and its competitors in a specific niche

A species has reached carrying capacity and leveled off due to limited resources

Correct answer:

A species has reached the carrying capacity but continues to grow, creating a population explosion and a competition for resources

Explanation:

Population growth can follow either a J curve trend or an S curve trend. A J curve represents exponential, or unrestricted growth. An S curve represents logistic, or restricted, growth and accounts for the carrying capacity of an environment.

In a J curve model, the population will continue to grow even when it has reached capacity. In an S curve model, the population will stagnate and stabilize at a maximum value when capacity is reached.

Example Question #4 : Carrying Capacity

Which is true for clumped distribution patterns? 

Possible Answers:

Sources are abundant throughout the environment

It does not affect predation patterns

The distance between individuals in minimized 

It is rarely seen in nature

Correct answer:

The distance between individuals in minimized 

Explanation:

Clumped distribution patterns localize individuals around scarce resources in environments where they are not equally distributed throughout. The clumping of organisms around these resources attracts predators and makes for easy predation. Because of the scarcity of water in desert, plain and tundra biomes, it is seen in large quantities in nature.  

Example Question #2 : Carrying Capacity

The maximum number of individuals that a particular habitat can support is called __________.

Possible Answers:

allopatric speciation

natural selection

fitness

carrying capacity

Correct answer:

carrying capacity

Explanation:

The carrying capacity of a certain habitat is the maximum number of individuals that it can support. Population numbers are limited by resources such as space, food, and water. Current estimates of Earth's carrying capacity are around 10 billion. 

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