Liebig’s Law of Minimum

  • History: The concept was first provided by J. Von Liebig in 1840 for growth rate of plants, stating that the size & overall health of the plant depends upon the scarcest essential nutrient available to it. Later, the concept was broadened to be applicable on all organisms.
  • Statement: Under stable conditions, the essential constituents present in amounts closest to minimum requirement tends to be limiting one.
  • The concept is less applicable in transient state conditions as the amount of nutrients tend to change.

Shelford’s Law of Tolerance

  • History: Provided by V.E. Shelford in 1913.
  • Statement: Organisms have ecological maximum & minimum constituents’ limits of tolerance affecting their abundance or distribution.
  • Since the law came into existence, much work has been done in ‘stress ecology’ to know limits of tolerance within which organisms can exist.
Illustration of Law of Tolerance

Combined Concept of Limiting Factors

  • Basically the combination of the above discussed laws viz. Liebig’s Law of Minimum & Shelford’s Law of Tolerance.
  • In an ecosystem, a complex of conditions persist for an organism’s success. When changes occur in these conditions, factor or group of factors which approach or exceed the limits of tolerance are called limiting factor(s).
  • In other words, limiting factor(s) can be defined as any factor(s) that tends to slow down the potential growth of organism, in an ecosystem.

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