What is a Density Independent Factor?

In ecology, a density independent factor, also known as a limiting factor, is any force that influences the size of a population of living things regardless of population density (number of individuals per unit area). Often, the density-independent factors arise from the chemical and physical (rather than density biology) phenomena.

Effect of Density Independent Factors

Such types of factors stemming from climate and weather and the wildfires, flooding, landslides, and other disasters as well — affect the density independent population control of living things whether individuals are spaced far apart or clustered close together. For example, for many organisms, which breathe oxygen, the availability of oxygen is one of the density-independent factors; if they decline the breathable oxygen concentrations are suddenly made unavailable, such as when oxygen-using plants are covered by the rising floodwaters, those organisms perish, and the populations of different affected plant species decline.

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The dynamics of most living things' populations are determined by a mix of density-dependent and density-independent factors (those that arise when individual concentrations in a population rise above a certain level). The relative importance of these particular factors differs among the populations and species.

Density Independent Limiting Factors Examples

Let us look at the limiting factors examples in detail.

Natural Disasters

A natural disaster is one of the perfect examples of an independent density factor. Suppose, consider a hurricane slamming into a coastline. Often, while we notice the devastation of these storms on the news, we consider the impacts of such a storm rarely on vegetation and wildlife in the area. A fact is, hurricanes will increase the death rate for several species, while a few other species notice a highly increased birth rate after the destruction.

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During any hurricane, winds increase to very dangerous speeds, tearing the large trees out of the ground. Trees such as the one in the above-given image would survive any of the regular storms. For several species, drastically, a hurricane increases the death rate, as the trees just cannot withstand the waves and wind. Several animals, such as amphibians and fish, succumb to rapidly falling and rising tides. Several news images showed pictures of fish washed up into roadways. These plants and animals die, irrespective of how dense their population was. They could also have been the last of their species or one in a billion.


Like the other density independent factors, pollution is also one of the good examples of density independence. While humans are concentrated in cities across the globe, the chemicals and emissions we create are dispersed into the atmosphere. From there, they are globally carried and affected all the organisms. Even the organisms present in the oceans get affected as the pollutants dissolve from the atmosphere into different water sources.

Thus, whether it is the last pair of endangered clownfish present in the ocean or have a huge population such as sparrows, our birth rate is still impacted negatively. Often, the density independent factors such as these cause a steady and slow drag on populations over time. Even the human population observes the drastic health effects from pollution, from lead poisoning to drinking water to the increased lung diseases.

Honey Bees - A Special Case

In general, instead of looking at the density independent factors, let us turn our view to the population of honeybees and also the factors that likely affect their population size. Density independent factors for the honeybees are things such as temperature and weather. Regardless of the present size of their population, honey bees require the weather and temperature to stay within certain ranges. If this weather does not stick to this specific pattern, several bees will die. For example, if there was a sudden snowstorm in the middle of summer, the honey bees would be caught off guard and die in the cold.

However, honey bees also face numerous density dependent factors. For example, their food source, including its effects on their population, is directly related to their population size. If they have a smaller population, there exists plenty of food for the bees, and all will grow. If the population is larger compared to the amount of food available, bees will starve, and the rate of death will increase. Food, including other usable biological resources, is very density dependent. The density independent factors will also affect the honey bees regardless of how many bees exist.

Factors that Affect Density


Imagine if we take a glass of water from the earth to space; it evaporates as soon as possible because of the absence of pressure. Here, What happens to its density? It decreases because the volume has enormously increased. This was an example. Even if we decrease the temperature by a little amount, the density decreases, and in the same way, if we increase the pressure, then the density increases. There should exist no confusion because it takes place only with water (it is an ice phenomenon).

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FAQs on Density Independent Factor

1. Explain How Density Independent Factors Differ.

Answer: Density independent factors vary based on the population, but they always affect the population similarly irrespective of its size. There are several common density independent factors, such as natural disasters, temperature, including the oxygen level in the atmosphere. All these factors apply to all the individuals in a population, irrespective of the density.

2. Differentiate Between Density Dependent Limiting Factors and Density Independent Factors.

Answer: Density independent factors may affect a population no matter its density amount. Density dependent factors can only affect the population when it reaches a certain density. The disease may be an example of some density dependent factors. Diseases spread through the dense populations due to the individuals living in close proximity to one other.

3. What are Shape Drag and Surface Drag?

Answer: Usually, shape drag is considered to be density dependent and needs evaluating terms that consider the cohesive forces in a fluid. At the same time, the surface drag is understood to be density independent and is well modelled only by considering the adhesive forces within the fluid.

4. Give Any Limiting Factors That Depend on the Population Density.

Answer: Climate change will limit the opportunity for the growth of the population as more land becomes unsuitable for habitation purposes. People will be squeezed into the smaller areas with limited opportunity to grow food and with changes to the other environmental conditions required to provide with the other basic needs, such as portable oxygen and water.

5. What are the Density Dependent Factors?

Answer: There are several density dependent factors. Besides those, density independent factors in the rainforest are sunlight and water.

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