Natural resources are resources that exist without actions of
humankind. This includes all valued characteristics such as magnetic,
gravitational, electrical properties and forces etc. On earth it
includes: sunlight, atmosphere, water, land (includes all minerals)
along with all vegetation, crops and animal life that naturally
subsists upon or within the heretofore identified characteristics and
Particular areas such as the rainforest in
Fatu-Hiva are often
characterized by the biodiversity and geodiversity existent in their
ecosystems. Natural resources may be further classified in different
ways. Natural resources are materials and components (something that
can be used) that can be found within the environment. Every man-made
product is composed of natural resources (at its fundamental level). A
natural resource may exist as a separate entity such as fresh water,
air, and as well as a living organism such as a fish, or it may exist
in an alternate form that must be processed to obtain the resource
such as metal ores, rare earth metals, petroleum, and most forms of
There is much debate worldwide over natural resource allocations, this
is particularly true during periods of increasing scarcity and
shortages (depletion and overconsumption of resources) but also
because the exportation of natural resources is the basis for many
economies (particularly for developed countries).
Some natural resources such as sunlight and air can be found
everywhere, and are known as ubiquitous resources. However, most
resources only occur in small sporadic areas, and are referred to as
localised resources. There are very few resources that are considered
inexhaustible (will not run out in foreseeable future) – these are
solar radiation, geothermal energy, and air (though access to clean
air may not be). The vast majority of resources are theoretically
exhaustible, which means they have a finite quantity and can be
depleted if managed improperly.
3 Depletion of resources
6 Natural Resources by country
7 See also
9 External links
There are various methods of categorizing natural resources, these
include source of origin, stage of development, and by their
On the basis of origin, natural resources may be divided into two
Biotic — Biotic resources are obtained from the biosphere (living
and organic material), such as forests and animals, and the materials
that can be obtained from them. Fossil fuels such as coal and
petroleum are also included in this category because they are formed
from decayed organic matter.
Abiotic – Abiotic resources are those that come from non-living,
non-organic material. Examples of abiotic resources include land,
fresh water, air, rare earth metals and heavy metals including ores
such as gold, iron, copper, silver, etc.
Considering their stage of development, natural resources may be
referred to in the following ways:
Potential resources — Potential resources are those that exist in a
region and may be used in the future. For example, petroleum occurs
with sedimentary rocks in various regions, but until the time it is
actually drilled out and put into use, it remains a potential
Actual resources — Actual resources are those that have been
surveyed, their quantity and quality determined and are being used in
present times. The development of an actual resource, such as wood
processing depends upon the technology available and the cost
Reserve resources — The part of an actual resource which can be
developed profitably in the future is called a reserve resource.
Stock resources — Stock resources are those that have been surveyed
but cannot be used by organisms due to lack of technology. For
Many natural resources can be categorized as either renewable or
Renewable resources —
Renewable resources can be replenished
naturally. Some of these resources, like sunlight, air, wind, water,
etc., are continuously available and their quantity is not noticeably
affected by human consumption. Though many renewable resources do not
have such a rapid recovery rate, these resources are susceptible to
depletion by over-use. Resources from a human use perspective are
classified as renewable so long as the rate of replenishment/recovery
exceeds that of the rate of consumption. They replenish easily
compared to Non-renewable resources.
Non-renewable resources –
Non-renewable resources either form slowly
or do not naturally form in the environment. Minerals are the most
common resource included in this category. By the human perspective,
resources are non-renewable when their rate of consumption exceeds the
rate of replenishment/recovery; a good example of this are fossil
fuels, which are in this category because their rate of formation is
extremely slow (potentially millions of years), meaning they are
considered non-renewable. Some resources actually naturally deplete in
amount without human interference, the most notable of these being
radio-active elements such as uranium, which naturally decay into
heavy metals. Of these, the metallic minerals can be re-used by
recycling them, but coal and petroleum cannot be recycled. Once
they are completely used they take millions of years to replenish.
Resource extraction involves any activity that withdraws resources
from nature. This can range in scale from the traditional use of
preindustrial societies, to global industry. Extractive industries
are, along with agriculture, the basis of the primary sector of the
economy. Extraction produces raw material which is then processed to
add value. Examples of extractive industries are hunting, trapping,
mining, oil and gas drilling, and forestry. Natural resources can add
substantial amounts to a country's wealth, however a sudden inflow
of money caused by a resource boom can create social problems
including inflation harming other industries ("Dutch disease") and
corruption, leading to inequality and underdevelopment, this is known
as the "resource curse".
Extractive industries represent a large growing activity in many
less-developed countries but the wealth generated does not always lead
to sustainable and inclusive growth. Extractive industry businesses
often are assumed to be interested only in maximizing their short-term
value, implying that less-developed countries are vulnerable to
powerful corporations. Alternatively, host governments are often
assumed to be only maximizing immediate revenue. Researchers argue
there are areas of common interest where development goals and
business cross. These present opportunities for international
governmental agencies to engage with the private sector and host
governments through revenue management and expenditure accountability,
infrastructure development, employment creation, skills and enterprise
development and impacts on children, especially girls and women.
Depletion of resources
Wind is a natural resource that can be used to generate electricity,
as with these 5MW wind turbines in
Thorntonbank Wind Farm
Thorntonbank Wind Farm 28 km
(17 mi) off the coast of Belgium
See also: Exploitation of natural resources
In recent years, the depletion of natural resources has become a major
focus of governments and organizations such as the United Nations
(UN). This is evident in the UN's Agenda 21 Section Two, which
outlines the necessary steps to be taken by countries to sustain their
natural resources. The depletion of natural resources is considered
to be a sustainable development issue. The term sustainable
development has many interpretations, most notably the Brundtland
Commission's 'to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
needs', however in broad terms it is balancing the needs of the
planet's people and species now and in the future. In regards to
natural resources, depletion is of concern for sustainable development
as it has the ability to degrade current environments and
potential to impact the needs of future generations.
"The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem.
Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all
Depletion of natural resources
Depletion of natural resources is associated with social inequity.
Considering most biodiversity are located in developing countries,
depletion of this resource could result in losses of ecosystem
services for these countries. Some view this depletion as a major
source of social unrest and conflicts in developing nations.
At present, with it being the year of the forest, there is
particular concern for rainforest regions which hold most of the
Earth's biodiversity. According to Nelson deforestation and
degradation affect 8.5% of the world's forests with 30% of the Earth's
surface already cropped. If we consider that 80% of people rely on
medicines obtained from plants and ¾ of the world's prescription
medicines have ingredients taken from plants, loss of the world's
rainforests could result in a loss of finding more potential life
The depletion of natural resources is caused by 'direct drivers of
change' such as Mining, petroleum extraction, fishing and forestry
as well as 'indirect drivers of change' such as demography, economy,
society, politics and technology. The current practice of
Agriculture is another factor causing depletion of natural resources.
For example, the depletion of nutrients in the soil due to excessive
use of nitrogen and desertification. The depletion of natural
resources is a continuing concern for society. This is seen in the
cited quote given by Theodore Roosevelt, a well-known conservationist
United States president, who was opposed to unregulated
natural resource extraction.
See also: Environmental protection
In 1982, the UN developed the World Charter for Nature, which
recognized the need to protect nature from further depletion due to
human activity. It states that measures need to be taken at all
societal levels, from international to individual, to protect nature.
It outlines the need for sustainable use of natural resources and
suggests that the protection of resources should be incorporated into
national and international systems of law. To look at the
importance of protecting natural resources further, the World Ethic of
Sustainability, developed by the IUCN, WWF and the
UNEP in 1990,
set out eight values for sustainability, including the need to protect
natural resources from depletion. Since the development of these
documents, many measures have been taken to protect natural resources
including establishment of the scientific field and practice of
conservation biology and habitat conservation, respectively.
Conservation biology is the scientific study of the nature and status
of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their
habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction.
It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on science, economics and
the practice of natural resource management. The term
conservation biology was introduced as the title of a conference held
at the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla, California,
in 1978, organized by biologists Bruce A. Wilcox and Michael E.
Habitat conservation is a land management practice that seeks to
conserve, protect and restore, habitat areas for wild plants and
animals, especially conservation reliant species, and prevent their
extinction, fragmentation or reduction in range.
Natural resource management
Natural resource management
Natural resource management is a discipline in the management of
natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants and animals, with
a particular focus on how management affects the quality of life for
both present and future generations.Hence sustainable development can
be followed where there is a judicial use of resources which
compromises the needs of the present generations as well as the future
Management of natural resources involves identifying who has the right
to use the resources and who does not for defining the boundaries of
the resource. The resources are managed by the users according to
the rules governing of when and how the resource is used depending on
A "...successful management of natural resources depends on freedom of
speech, a dynamic and wide-ranging public debate through multiple
independent media channels and an active civil society engaged in
natural resource issues...", because of the nature of the shared
resources the individuals who are affected by the rules can
participate in setting or changing them. The users have rights to
devise their own management institutions and plans under the
recognition by the government. The right to resources includes land,
water, fisheries and pastoral rights. The users or parties
accountable to the users have to actively monitor and ensure the
utilisation of the resource compliance with the rules and to impose
penalty on those peoples who violates the rules. These conflicts
are resolved in a quick and low cost manner by the local institution
according to the seriousness and context of the offence. The
global science-based platform to discuss natural resources management
is the World Resources Forum, based in Switzerland.
Natural Resources by country
Value of Natural Resources by country (in USD Trillions), 2016
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Media related to Natural resources at Wikimedia Commons
Pollution / quality
Ambient standards (USA)
Air Act (USA)
Fossil fuels (peak oil)
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storage and recovery
Earth Overshoot Day
Renewable / Non-renewable
Agriculture and agronomy