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Desert Diary
Culture/Carrying Capacity


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Carrying capacity is an important concept in ecology. This is the number of organisms that can be supported in a given area for an indefinite period of time and can be considered for the biota as a whole or for specific organisms. It is set by the long-term availability of necessary resources within the area. Resources, of course, include such items as food, drinking water, the minerals required for health, the nature of the soil, precipitation, and much, much more. Even the temperateness of the climate can be considered a resource, for a region blessed with a benign climate could support more life than can our temperamental desert even if all else were equal.

The Chihuahuan Desert currently supports several million people—or does it? It only takes a little thought to know that it's not the desert that supports most of these people; the desert's carrying capacity is far too low. Rather, we depend on imports from more favored regions—food, building supplies, and yes, even that most important resource of all in desert lands, our water!
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest. <<img class="rule" src="ruleahh.gif" width="95%" height="2" alt="rule" />

Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.