A limiting factor (also known as a "constraining" factor) limits the growth or development of an organism, population, or process.
Biology, ecology, population studies 
In biological or ecological terms, a limiting factor causes a population to decrease in size. A few limiting factors are food, shelter, water, space. These are not all limited to the condition of the species. Some factors may be increased or reduced based on circumstances. An example of a limiting factor is sunlight in the rain forest, where growth is limited to all plants in the under story unless more light becomes available. This decreases plant photosynthesis.
A number of potential factors could influence a biological process, but importantly only one is limiting at any one place and time. This recognition that there is always a single limiting factor is vital in ecology; and the concept has parallels in numerous other processes.
In business and technology 
The AllBusiness.com Business Glossary defines a limiting (constraining) factor as an "item that restricts or limits production or sale of a given product." The examples provided include: "limited machine hours and labor-hours and shortage of materials and skilled labor. Other limiting factors may be cubic feet of display or warehouse space, or working capital." The term is also frequently used in technology literature.
See also 
- Abiotic component
- Bateman's principle
- Biotic component
- Competition (biology)
- Competitive exclusion principle
- Resource (biology)
- "Business definition for: Limiting (constraining) factor". AllBusiness Business Glossary. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
- Sheriff, A., Bouchlaghem, D., El-Hamalawi, A., and Yeomans, S. (2012). "Information Management in UK-Based Architecture and Engineering Organizations: Drivers, Constraining Factors, and Barriers". Journal of Management Engineering. 28(2). p. 170–180.
- John Leslie King, Vijay Gurbaxani, Kenneth L. Kraemer, F. Warren McFarlan, K. S. Raman & C. S. Yap (June 1994). "Institutional Factors in Information Technology Innovation". Information Systems Research (DOI= 10.1287/isre.5.2.139) 5 (2). pp. 139–169.
External sources 
- Raghothama, K. G. & Karthikeyan, A.S. (2005) Phosphate acquisition. Plant and Soil, 274 37-49.
- Taylor, W. A. (1934). Significace of extreme or intermittent conditions in distribution of species and management of natural resources, with a restatement of Liebig's law of the minimum. Ecology, 15: 374-379.
- Shelford, V. E. (1952). Paired factors and master factors in environmental relations. Illinois Acad. Sci. Trans., 45: 155-160
- Sundareshwar P.V., J.T. Morris, E.K. Koepfler, and B. Fornwalt. (2003). Phosphorus limitation of coastal ecosystem processes. Science 299:563-565.efhh
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