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Javier goes by the name of Knownuthing on his blog.
Opinions expressed in this post are those of Javier and not necessarily those of the blog owner Ron Patterson. This post was translated from the Spanish by computer and may therefore contain some grammatical errors. The Problem of the Human Population The question of whether or not overpopulation in the world is clearly debatable. Although efforts to limit population growth in some countries like India or China, today these efforts have been abandoned or are abandoning were made in the second half of the twentieth century, mainly due to the pace of population growth is declining alone globally.
As in all matters based on the laws of nature, we can use science to analyze the problem of the human population. The science that helps us in this case is ecology, which has a specific branch of human ecology. Anyone who thinks that we do not apply the laws of biology, is that it has lost touch with the reality of human nature.
For very rational to presume to be, we are still animals and not very rational forget. How many and how fast we grow? You can see the current figure on page http: Fig 1 Growth of world population and growth rate estimates up to World Population Data Since the growth rate is declining naturally, if not intervene any new factor human population on Earth would peak slightly above the 10 billion people by according to the United Nations.
This is the problem size. The odds that this issue is addressed in political form before are very low. Political campaigns to reduce the growth of the human population are decreasing, not increasing. The population of Earth is very unevenly distributed. Population density in at national or subnational level people per km2. Wikipedia The question therefore is not to analyze whether the Earth is able to support 10 billion people, as it most likely can, but if it can do it indefinitely.
The capacity of an environment to support a species is called carrying capacity. The carrying capacity In the context of ecology, the carrying capacity K is a theoretical concept, which represents the maximum number of individuals of a species that is capable of supporting ecosystem.
This concept demonstrates its practical usefulness when observed that populations with capacity growth tend to occur in many species, a sigmoidal growth asymptotically approaches a value that was defined as capacity Odum, Fundamentals of Ecology, Another more modern working definition is that the capacity of a population is the size of the population N when its growth rate r becomes zero and stops growing Molles, Ecology: Concepts and Applications, The carrying capacity is not a static value as shown in Fig.
Natural areas managers measure key indicators of species and habitat to determine which populations are responsible below the carrying capacity. Experiments in natural areas under management by government agencies show that populations are limited by the medium. Essentially the availability of food, but also to a lesser extent by other factors such as water, shelter and space see for example: Carrying Capacity — How many deer can we Have?
Populations living therefore tend to fluctuate naturally around a certain level which is defined as its charge capacity. An animal population may be below its carrying capacity in the spring after a hard winter, or temporarily above it during the winter, a situation that usually lasts a short time and that inevitably leads to a decline in population due to multiple natural limiting factors eg mortality, disease, migration and decrease the rate of reproduction.
The concept of carrying capacity also applies to human ecology. The study of human populations shows the recent evolution of their capacity. If we analyze the population of England and Japan over the last few centuries Fig. A Model with Varying Logistically Limits. Note that the shorter duration of the industrial revolution in Japan 77 years due to be later, it corresponds to a growth in population correspondingly faster. Evolution of the population of England and Japan in recent centuries.
We can see how the lifting capacity K, inferred results in the increase of population P million according to a sigmoidal curve to stabilize at the new value. Numerous studies can relate the increase in capacity in human populations with increased food availability.
The factors leading to an increase in human carrying capacity are essentially: Extensive farming mechanization, irrigation, use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Selection of seeds and species, use of improved agricultural techniques, improved fishing technologies. Increase in temperature and humidity. Increased rainfall Increased CO2. Factors leading to a decrease in human carrying capacity are essentially: Aquifer depletion, rising and declining fuel and energy, collapse of fish populations.
Pollution, soil loss, nutrient loss, desertification, deforestation, loss of pollinators, pest favoritism. Historically the global carrying capacity of humanity has experienced a gradual increase, although there have been local collapses because the positive factors have predominated over the negative.
Especially with the industrial revolution energy costs soared and a strong increase of knowledge which subsequently led to the green revolution began, all of which produced an exponential growth of the human population.
This past success leads to much of humanity to think that future increases in knowledge and technology now can not imagine allow indefinitely increase the capacity , or at least we are far from a maximum load. This theory however contains hidden errors and fallacies that completely disabled. These errors are as follows: Technological progress is ambivalent because it also allows an increase in the rate of consumption.
Is technological progress in fishing techniques which led to the collapse of fish populations. Increased capacity is subject to the law of diminishing returns.
The cost is becoming progressively higher for a progressively smaller profit. As the population increases the effect of the positive factors per person dilution effect is reduced, while increasing the negative factors and cost.
The decrease of non-renewable resources or overexploited renewable is a function of the rate of exploitation , which increases as a function of population growth.
Therefore we can conclude that there is a maximum carrying capacity for humanity.
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However there is no agreement on the best way to measure and both methods to measure their results are widely variables. Methods based on determinations constrained by a constant factor, be it surface, amount of food available, or other factors or combination of factors results give very variable and highly dependent on questionable assumptions. Based methods of curve fitting and extrapolation population lacking a theoretical basis.
Although most studies tended to estimates between 8 and 16 billion , the change was tremendous, about three orders of magnitude from millions to billions. The findings appear to be carrying capacity depends on the assumptions one makes and the method used to calculate it.
A very unscientific answer. There is another independent way to calculate the maximum load for the human population, which consists in calculating the proportion of products of photosynthesis on Earth that humans are suitable for use. A study by Vitousek et al. Since the population in was 5 billion people, if calculations Vitousek et al.
Ecology in times of scarcity ; Haberl et al The factor of 2 which separates these estimates is extremely small considering the short time it takes the human population to double. This value can be negative green eg on sites where the desert is irrigated, and the Nile Delta.
It should be noted that such a degree of appropriation of net primary production of the Earth is at the expense of a strong destruction of biodiversity and increasing environmental degradation, which puts into question that this capacity can be sustained indefinitely. Overshoot Analyzing the carrying capacity takes us to the important question of what happens when it is exceeded. We have seen that populations above their carrying capacity have their population reduced by natural limiting factors such as mortality, disease, migration and decreased rate of reproduction.
When a population is above its carrying capacity it is said to be in overshoot. The overshoot is common in natural populations.
For example, many animals experience high mortality during the winter at high latitudes and high mountain, to recover their numbers during the summer, indicating that during spring are below the carrying capacity and fall over. Throughout history has often been human populations that have been found have overshoot.
The most common response has been emigration. The ancient history to the Maya, is packed dropout urban settlements when their environment is degraded to make unsustainable population.
There are strong indications that both the invasions of the Sea Peoples in the Late Bronze Age, as the barbarian invasions which began in the Middle Ages were actually induced migration persistent drought conditions around the Black Sea and in the steppes of Central Asia respectively, which reduced the carrying capacity below the population.
But often the overshoot is part of the ecological strategy of the species, which breeds explosively above its capacity regularly subsequently suffering a collapse. Equally common is that the excess is present when the capacity is altered temporarily , since every species has the potential to grow exponentially.
The population inhabiting the small island of Daphne Major, a volcanic cone of 0. When researchers began the study in there were individuals of G. Although a few birds may have migrated to other islands, most died of starvation, because during drought plants that produce seeds which are their main food did not.
In he fell through any chick on the island. Between and the population of this small bird that can live about ten years, remained at about copies. The conditions were ideal, both for the production of seeds which are the main food of adults, and the caterpillars that feed their chicks. Consequently the medium ground finch population increased to about individuals, quadrupling in size in one year. Since finches have a set of three eggs that means essentially that year onwards all couples took all her brood of two clutches, resulting in maximum growth.
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In and 85 they returned to take extreme drought and population began to collapse. Even in later years one could observe that most of the copies of the island were born in , given the high birthrate of that year. Population of medium ground finches on Daphne Major green and rainfall in blue. In years of high rainfall population of finches is triggered. Distribution of the population of finches in percent by the age of individuals in years. The lack of individuals born in drought years is observed.
A Population in The distribution is regular except for the absence of individuals born in when no nidificaron finches.