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Limiting factor

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Definition

noun, plural: limiting factors

A factor present in an environment that controls a process, particularly growth, abundance or distribution of a population of organisms in an ecosystem


Supplement

The term limiting factor is defined as a factor present in an environment that controls a process. In particular, it refers to the factor that limits growth, abundance, and distribution of a population of organisms in an ecosystem.

The concept is based upon the Law of the Minimum, which states that the functioning of an organism is controlled or limited by that essential environmental factor or combination of factors present in the least favorable amount that may not be continuously existing but only at some critical period of time.

The availability of food, water, nutrients, shelter, and predation pressure are examples of factors limiting the growth of a population size. A single-limiting factor is when there is one factor that limits the system. A co-limiting factor is when a factor affects the population of organisms in an ecosystem indirectly but increases the limitation of the factor directly affecting the population. There are independent limiting factors as well wherein more than one factor contribute to the limitation of a population but applies different mechanisms.


Synonym(s):

  • limiting resource

See also:

Related term(s):