AP Environmental Science : Population Ecology

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Environmental Science

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Understanding Population Ecology

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

Possible Answers:

density-independent, density-independent

density-dependent, density-dependent

density-independent, density-dependent

density-dependent, density-independent

none of these

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 : Population Ecology

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

Possible Answers:

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 number of individuals that can exist alongside one another at a reasonable standard of living. 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 which species are able to coexist in a niche.

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. 

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 #1 : Carrying Capacity

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

Possible Answers:

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

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 carrying capacity and leveled off due to limited resources

A species has reached the carrying capacity but continues to grow, creating a population explosion and a competition for 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 #1 : Carrying Capacity

Which is true for clumped distribution patterns? 

Possible Answers:

It is rarely seen in nature

Sources are abundant throughout the environment

It does not affect predation patterns

The distance between individuals in minimized 

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 #1 : Population Ecology

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

Possible Answers:

fitness

carrying capacity

allopatric speciation

natural selection

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. 

Example Question #1 : Population Ecology

A population of dingoes in an Outback region of Australia includes 120 individuals at the start of 2011. At the start of 2012, researchers had observed 18 births and 2 deaths. In addition, they observed 2 individuals immigrating and 3 individuals emigrating. What is the population's net growth rate?

Possible Answers:

100%

12.50%

0.13%

88.90%

1.13%

Correct answer:

12.50%

Explanation:

The population's new size at the start of 2012 was = original population + (births + immigrations) - (deaths + emigrations) = 120 + (18 + 2) - (2 + 3) = 135. Then, the net population growth rate is equal to (net change in population / size of old population) = 15/120 = .125.

Example Question #1 : Population Ecology

K-strategist species exhibit all of the following characteristics except __________.

Possible Answers:

Produces relatively few offspring

Late age of maturity

Relatively long life expectancies

Little time spent by parents raising offspring

Correct answer:

Little time spent by parents raising offspring

Explanation:

Species designated as K-strategists thrive through longevity and have a higher survival rate at birth, but produce far fewer offspring. Examples include elephants and whales. Consider an elephant; it may produce relatively few baby elephants, but these baby elephants each have the potential to live relatively long lives. On the other hand, contrast K-strategists like elephants with r-strategists like rats, locusts, and flies. These species are designated as r-strategists because in contrast, they produce numerous offspring, few of which may survive to adulthood, and each one of which reaches maturity quickly and lives a relatively short life. K-strategists in general spend more time than r-strategists caring for and raising their offspring; they have fewer offspring, so they put more care into ensuring the survival of each one. Contrast elephants with frogs to see this difference; elephants care for their young, while frogs lay their eggs and care for their offspring very little, if at all.

Example Question #2 : Population Ecology

A species designated as "r-strategist" is characterized by all of the following except __________.

Possible Answers:

Long life expectancy

Small size

Little time spent by parents caring for and raising offspring

Low age of maturity

High reproductive rate

Correct answer:

Long life expectancy

Explanation:

Species described as "r-strategist" have a survival strategy of producing large numbers of offspring, a short life expectancy, and typically smaller body sizes. Examples include mice, locusts, and frogs. These species survive by producing lots of offspring, since many individuals don't survive to adulthood.

Example Question #2 : Population Ecology

Which of the following mammals is an "r-selected" species?

Possible Answers:

All of these

Cottontail rabbit

Human

Blue whale

Correct answer:

Cottontail rabbit

Explanation:

R-selected individuals are characterized by the following: early age of sexual maturity, many lifetime reproductive events, large numbers of offspring per event, and minimal parenting. Many of the offspring of r-selected species will die before adulthood. On the other hand, K-selected individuals have only one or few offspring at once and invest larger amounts of time and energy into parenting to ensure survival. The rabbit is the only species listed whose life traits can be categorized as being r-selected.

Example Question #1 : Population Ecology

A brand new country, named Neoland, has a growth rate of 4%. How many years will it take the population of Neoland to double?

Possible Answers:

18 years

8 years

20 years

2 years

Correct answer:

18 years

Explanation:

Use the Rule of 72:

 is rate of growth

 is time (in years) it takes to double

By manipulating the equation to divide 72 by the given growth rate, you can find the number of years it takes for the population to double.

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