Natural resource

Natural resource

Overview

Natural resources occur naturally within environments
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

 that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

 form. A natural resource
Resource
A resource is a source or supply from which benefit is produced, typically of limited availability.Resource may also refer to:* Resource , substances or objects required by a biological organism for normal maintenance, growth, and reproduction...

 is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 and geodiversity
Geodiversity
Geodiversity is the variety of earth materials, forms and processes that constitute and shape the Earth, either the whole or a specific part of it. Relevant materials include minerals, rocks, sediments, fossils, soils and water. Forms may comprise folds, faults, landforms and other expressions of...

 existent in various ecosystems.

Natural resources are derived from the environment
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

. Many of them are essential for our survival while others are used for satisfying our wants. 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.
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Natural resources occur naturally within environments
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

 that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

 form. A natural resource
Resource
A resource is a source or supply from which benefit is produced, typically of limited availability.Resource may also refer to:* Resource , substances or objects required by a biological organism for normal maintenance, growth, and reproduction...

 is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 and geodiversity
Geodiversity
Geodiversity is the variety of earth materials, forms and processes that constitute and shape the Earth, either the whole or a specific part of it. Relevant materials include minerals, rocks, sediments, fossils, soils and water. Forms may comprise folds, faults, landforms and other expressions of...

 existent in various ecosystems.

Natural resources are derived from the environment
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

. Many of them are essential for our survival while others are used for satisfying our wants. Natural resources may be further classified in different ways.

Introduction


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, and air, as well as a living organism such as a fish, or it may exist in an alternate form which must be processed to obtain the resource such as metal ores, oil, and most forms of energy.

There is much debate worldwide over natural resource allocations, this is partly due to increasing scarcity (depletion of resources) but also because the exportation of natural resources is the basis for many economies (particularly for developed nations such as Australia).

Some Natural resources can be found everywhere such as sunlight and air, when this is so the resources is known as an ubiquitous resource. However most resources are not ubiquitous, they only occur in small sporadic areas, these resources are referred to as localized 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 however exhaustible, which means they have a finite quantity, and can be depleted if managed improperly.

Classification


There are various methods of categorizing natural resources, these include source of origin, stage of human use, and by their renewability, these classifications are described below.
On the basis of origin, resources may be divided into:
  • Biotic – Biotic resources are obtained from the biosphere
    Biosphere
    The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

     (living and organic material), such as forests, animals, birds, and fish
    Fish
    Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

     and the materials that can be obtained from them. Fossil fuels such as coal
    Coal
    Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

     and petroleum
    Petroleum
    Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

     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
    Land
    Land may refer to:*The part of the Earth that is not covered by water**Ecoregion*Landscape*Landform, physical feature comprises a geomorphological unit*Land , a factor of production comprising all naturally occurring resources*Land law...

    , fresh water
    Water
    Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

    , air and heavy metals including ores
    Orés
    Orés is a municipality in the Cinco Villas, in the province of Zaragoza, in the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It belongs to the comarca of Cinco Villas. It is placed 104 km to the northwest of the provincial capital city, Zaragoza. Its coordinates are: 42° 17' N, 1° 00' W, and is...

     such as gold
    Gold
    Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

    , iron
    Iron
    Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

    , copper
    Copper
    Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

    , silver
    Silver
    Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

    , 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
    Petroleum
    Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

     may exist in many parts of India, having sedimentary rocks but until the time it is actually drilled out and put into use, it remains a potential resource.
  • 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
    Wood processing
    Wood processing is an engineering discipline comprising the production of forest products, such as pulp and paper, construction materials, and tall oil...

     depends upon the technology available and the cost involved.
  • 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 example: hydrogen
    Hydrogen
    Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

    .


Renewability is a very popular topic and many natural resources can be categorized as either renewable or non-renewable:
  • Renewable resources are ones that can be replenished naturally. Some of these resources, like sunlight, air, wind, 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 only so long as the rate of replenishment/recovery exceeds that of the rate of consumption.
  • Non-renewable resources
    Non-renewable resources
    A non-renewable resource is a natural resource which cannot be produced, grown, generated, or used on a scale which can sustain its consumption rate, once depleted there is no more available for future needs. Also considered non-renewable are resources that are consumed much faster than nature...

     are resources that form extremely slowly and those that do not naturally form in the environment. Minerals are the most common resource included in this category. By the human use 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), which means they are considered non-renewable from a human use perspective. Some resources actually naturally deplete in amount without human interference, the most notable of these are the 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.

.

Depletion



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.

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 saving medicines.

The depletion of natural resources is caused by ‘direct drivers of change’ such as Mining
Mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

, petroleum extraction, fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 and forestry as well as ‘indirect drivers of change’ such as demography, economy, society, politics and technology. The current practice of Agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 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
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

, a well-known conservationist and former United States president, was opposed to unregulated natural resource extraction.

Protection



In 1982 the UN developed the World Charter for Nature in which it recognised the need to protect nature from further depletion due to human activity. They state the measures needed to be taken at all societal levels, from international right down to individual, to protect nature. They outline the need for sustainable use of natural resources and suggest that the protection of resources should be incorporated into the law system at state and international level.. 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 which set out eight values for sustainability, include the need to protect natural resources from depletion. Since these documents, there have been many measures taken to protect natural resources, some of these ways include Conservation biology and Habitat Conservation.

Conservation biology
Conservation biology
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...

 is the scientific study of the nature and status of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

. It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on sciences, economics, and the practice of natural resource management
Natural resource management
Natural resource management refers to 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 ....

. The term conservation biology was introduced as the title of a conference held University of California at San Diego in La Jolla, California in 1978 organized by biologists Bruce Wilcox and Michael Soulé.
Habitat conservation
Habitat conservation
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...

 is a land management
Land management
Land management is the process of managing the use and development of land resources. Land resources are used for a variety of purposes which may include organic agriculture, reforestation, water resource management and eco-tourism projects.-See also:*Sustainable land management*Acreage...

 practice that seeks to conserve, protect and restore, habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

 areas for wild plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

s and animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s, especially conservation reliant species
Conservation reliant species
Conservation reliant species are endangered or threatened animal or plant species that require continuing species specific wildlife management intervention such as predator control, habitat management and parasite control to survive even when self-sustaining population recovery goals are...

, and prevent their extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

, fragmentation
Habitat fragmentation
Habitat fragmentation as the name implies, describes the emergence of discontinuities in an organism's preferred environment , causing population fragmentation...

 or reduction in range
Range (biology)
In biology, the range or distribution of a species is the geographical area within which that species can be found. Within that range, dispersion is variation in local density.The term is often qualified:...

.

Management


Natural resource management
Natural resource management
Natural resource management refers to 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 ....

 is a discipline in the management of natural resources
Natural Resources
Natural Resources is a soul album released by Motown girl group Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in 1970 on the Gordy label. The album is significant for the Vietnam War ballad "I Should Be Proud" and the slow jam, "Love Guess Who"...

 such as land, water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

, plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

s and animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s, with a particular focus on how management affects the quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

for both present and future generations.

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 local condition.

A successful management of natural resources should engage the community 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 the rights to device 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.

External links

  • World Resources Forum - Science based platform to exchange knowledge about the economic, political and environmental implications of global resource use.