2 March 2024

Shelford’s law of tolerance is a fundamental concept in ecology that describes the relationship between organisms and his or her environment. It was proposed by the ecologist Víctor Shelford, and is based on the premise that each species on Earth has specific environmental tolerance requirements to survive and thrive depending on its territory.

According to the law of tolerance, each organism has an optimal range of environmental conditions within which the organism can function optimally. However, outside of this optimum range, survival and reproductive success of the organism are compromised.

What is Shelford’s law of tolerance?

Shelford’s law of tolerance is a central concept in ecology that explains the relationship between organisms and their environment. This law states that each species has a specific tolerance range for key environmental factors.

According to this law, each organism has a roptimum range of environmental conditions in which it can survive and reproduce successfully. However, depending on the optimal range, survival and reproductive capacity are compromised.

The tolerance of an organism refers to its ability to resist environmental changes as:

  • Temperature.
  • Humidity.
  • Water availability.
  • pH.

Naturally, there are species that they are more tolerant and capable of adapting to environmental conditions than other species that respond more sensitively to changes in the environment. This law has important implications for ecology and conservation. Helps us understand the species distributionthe response of these to environmental changes, whether by nature or by human intervention.

On the other hand, it highlights the importance of protect habitats and maintain environmental conditions within the tolerance ranges of the species to guarantee their long-term survival.

Examples on Shelford’s law of tolerance

Here are some examples showing the application of this law in nature:

  • The thermal tolerance of organisms is exemplified by fish species, such as trout. They are very sensitive to sudden temperature changes and have a short tolerance range. If the water temperature varies too much from its optimal range, these species can become stressed, sick, or die.
  • The salinity tolerancesome plant species show this tolerance very well, since plants like the swamps They are capable of surviving in environments with high salinity, since they have physiological mechanisms that allow them to eliminate or tolerate excess salt.
  • The water availability it also influences the tolerance of organisms. For example, The Cactus They are plants that have developed adaptations to survive in arid environments with scarcity of water. They have special structures that allow them to store water and reduce water loss.

These examples allow us to understand crucial tolerance rangesand how this influences the conservation and management of ecosystems.

Application of the law of tolerance of Shelford

Shelford’s law of tolerance has a wide field application of ecology and conservation. Some applications of this law will be explored below:

  • Understanding the effects of climate change: as climatic conditions change, some species are challenged by higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and other factors. Understanding tolerance ranges helps to predict how they will respond to climate change and to develop conservation strategies to protect their habitats.
  • Ecosystem management: knowledge about the tolerance ranges of the species is used to determine what actions are necessary to maintain ecosystem health and biodiversity.
  • Restoration of degraded ecosystems: is achieved by return species to an area that has been altered by human activity, tolerance ranges become crucial to ensure adequate conditions for their survival and reproduction.

What elements make up Shelford’s law of tolerance?

The law of tolerance is based on several key elements to understand the relationship between organisms and their environment. These elements form the basis of this law and are essential to understand the tolerance ranges of species.

  • optimal range: each species has a range of environmental conditions in which it can function optimally such as temperature, humidity, etc. Within this range, species can survive and reproduce successfully.
  • Tolerance: each species has a specific tolerance level for environmental factors. Some species may be more tolerant and able to survive in different conditions, while others have a lower tolerance and are more sensitive to environmental changes.
  • Tolerance limit: each species has an upper and lower limit on its tolerance to environmental factors. Above or below these limits, the survival and reproduction of the species are affected.
  • Interaction between different environmental factors: Species may have different ranges of tolerance for different factors. For example, an organic compound (plant types) may have a high moisture tolerance, but a low temperature tolerance.

These elements are used to understand the species response to changes in their environment and how we can effectively protect and conserve ecosystems.

The optimal value

The optimum value is a fundamental concept within Shelford’s law of tolerance. It refers to the set of environmental conditions or values in which a species works optimally, that is, they have their performance is maximum.

The optimal value is related to the range of tolerance of a species. This range is from the lower limit to the lower limit. upper tolerance limit, and in between are environmental conditions. However, beyond this range, their ability to adapt and survive is compromised.

At the optimal value, environmental factors are in a optimum balance for operation and development of the species. For example, for a seed to grow healthily you need to combine:

  • Temperature.
  • Humidity.
  • Available nutrients.

Tolerance ranges graph

The tolerance range plot is a visual representation that shows how a species responds to different levels of a specific environmental factor. It is a tool used to understand limits and tolerance range of a species according to said factor.

In this graph, the environmental factor is represented on the horizontal axis, while the species’ ability to survive or reproduce is represented on the vertical axis. HE draw a curve that shows how the species responds to different levels of the environmental factor.

The highest point of the curve represents the optimum value, where the species has its maximum performance. When the environmental factor moves away from the optimal value, the curve decreases, indicating a decrease in capacity survival or reproduction of the species.

This graph allows you to compare the tolerance ranges of different species and understand how each one responds to a specific environmental factor. This provides valuable information for the management and conservation of species.

What are the limits of tolerance?

The limits of tolerance are the extremes in which the survival and reproduction of a species are compromised.

  • The lower limit: refers to the lowest point at which a species can survive. If environmental conditions drop below this limit, the species will have a hard time staying alive.
  • The upper limit: refers to the highest point at which a species can survive. If environmental conditions exceed this limitthe species cannot adapt and maintain itself in its habitat.

What is the tolerance range?

The tolerance range is the allowable margin within which an activity can be carried out or function correctly. He tolerance range sets the limits in which a system, organism, or individual can develop without experiencing significant adverse consequences.

In biology, the range of tolerance refers to environmental conditions within which a species can survive and reproduce. For example, a plant may have a specific tolerance range for soil temperature, moisture, or pH. If conditions are within that range, the plant will thrive. Outside of that range, the plant can experience stress, decline, or even die.

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