Properties Of Populations

A population is a group of organisms that belong to the same species and live in a particular place at the same time. All of the bass living in a pond during a certain period of time make up a population because they are isolated in the pond and do not interact with bass living in other ponds. The boundaries of a population may be imposed by a feature of the environment, such as a lake shore, or they can be arbitrarily chosen to simplify a study of the population. The humans shown in Figure 19-1 are part of the population of a city. The properties of populations differ from those of individuals. An individual may be born, it may reproduce, or it may die. A population study focuses on a population as a whole—how many individuals are born, how many die, and so on.

Population Size

A population's size is the number of individuals that the population contains. Size is a fundamental and important population property but can be difficult to measure directly. If a population is small and composed of immobile organisms, such as plants, its size can be determined simply by counting individuals. Often, though, individuals are too abundant, too widespread, or too mobile to be counted easily, and scientists must estimate the number of individuals in the population.

Suppose that a scientist wants to know how many oak trees live in a 10 km2 patch of forest. Instead of searching the entire patch of forest and counting all the oak trees, the scientist could count the trees in a smaller section of the forest, such as a 1 km2 area. The scientist could then use this value to estimate the population of the larger area.

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