Energy and nutrient acquisition is vital to the survival of organisms because these are the resources which organisms depend on for growth and maintenance. Generally competition between individuals takes places because the potential for energy and nutrient acquisition is limited.
In 1840, Justus von Liebig developed a law called Liebig’s Law of the Minimum, which was a concept used in ecology relating to the idea of how resources limit populations. This law stated that populations are limited by a single resource in an ecosystem which is the most scarce, thus in the highest demand. However, this law is no longer believed to be accurate by all ecologists. Instead, it is thought now that most natural populations are limited by a number of resources which act synergistically.
Different species are limited by different resources. For instance, plants are usually limited by soil resources such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Conversely, in animal populations, predator-prey relationships play a large role in limiting resources. Sometimes, predators completely exploit their prey resources and thus, this leaves predators confined for obtaining further energy and nutrients. Predators need to be careful not to completely wipe out their prey so that they can avoid a population depression.
This concept of energy and nutrient acquisition is inextricably linked to the action of competition because essentially, it is the reason why competition exists. Just as Thomas Malthus stated in 1798, the point of crisis occurs in a population when individuals exceed their amount of accessible resources. Clearly, maintaining a reliable amount of resources in a population is critical so that organisms can acquire the energy and nutrients they need to grow and prosper.
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