Population Matters

Today students learned about populations. We compared graphs of different populations of plants and animals to learn about the nature of population growth and the ecology of species. We also learned about world population and how it has increased from 1 billion to 7 billion people in just over 200 years.

We also explored two concepts in population ecology, carrying capacity and the Tragedy of the Commons. Carrying capacity is the maximum number of individuals that an area can support without exhausting or depleting the available resources. In the Oh Deer! Activity we saw that a good habitat is key to wildlife survival and that population numbers are never static but constantly fluctuate due to the availability of resources.

To demonstrate the Tragedy of the Commons, which describes how shared natural resources are overused and eventually depleted, we played a game where students were grouped together in villages that survived by fishing. Inevitably, villagers who caught the maximum number of fish allowed each year ended up not leaving enough fish in the pond to reproduce to provide food for the next year. Villagers starved and villages collapsed until some students realized that if they fished enough to survive, but not enough to deplete the fish resource, the game could continue indefinitely – or as we say in ecology – sustainably – for many generations.


Additional Information:

We watched a great video about population that you can review here. http://www.npr.org/2011/10/31/141816460/visualizing-how-a-population-grows-to-7-billion

Watch this short video to find out more about Tragedy of the Commons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZDjPnzoge0

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