A squirrel population in a forest will only be as big as the available food source allows, and probably a little smaller after you account for predators, disease, etc. What is the name of the tendency of a species to multiply until it reaches terminal population?

Sort of like how when you drop a tennis ball from a building, gravity will only accelerate its fall so much until wind resistance counteracts it. This results in the ball reaching a constant velocity, known as “terminal velocity” in physics.

Similar to the phrase “evolutionary niche”, but not really involved with evolution.


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Malthus is the fellow usually credited with the idea of exponential population growth: that a population unchecked by resource limitations will grow proportional to its own size. He was particularly concerned by the catastrophe that would occur when this growth would lead a population to exceed the ability to support itself.

Later, Verhulst came up with the idea of logistic growth. The logistic function approximates exponential growth when populations are small, but eventually growth slows as it gets closer to some capacity. If you think just in terms of food, this would represent members of a population having more and more trouble finding the limited food supplies as it gets closer to the limits.

I would simply call the scenario you describe "logistic growth". It's a fairly common "null hypothesis" on which other models can be built.

Accounting for predators is a bit more complicated, but you could see the Lotka-Volterra equations as a starting point.

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    $\begingroup$ the term closest to "terminal population" is probably "carrying capacity" ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrying_capacity ) though that's a property of a particular environment rather than a species within it. $\endgroup$
    – timeskull
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 18:50

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