Natural resource

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The rainforest in Fatu-Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands, is an example of an undisturbed natural resource. Forest provides timber for humans, food, water and shelter for the flora and fauna tribes and animals. The nutrient cycle between organisms forms food chains and fosters a biodiversity of species. Rainforest Fatu Hiva.jpg
The rainforest in Fatu-Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands, is an example of an undisturbed natural resource. Forest provides timber for humans, food, water and shelter for the flora and fauna tribes and animals. The nutrient cycle between organisms forms food chains and fosters a biodiversity of species.
The Carson Fall in Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia is an example of undisturbed natural resources. Waterfalls provide spring water for humans, animals and plants for survival and also habitat for marine organisms. The water current can be used to turn turbines for hydroelectric generation. Carson Fall Mt Kinabalu.jpg
The Carson Fall in Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia is an example of undisturbed natural resources. Waterfalls provide spring water for humans, animals and plants for survival and also habitat for marine organisms. The water current can be used to turn turbines for hydroelectric generation.
The ocean is an example of a natural resource. Ocean waves can be used to generate wave power, a renewable energy source. Ocean water is important for salt production, desalination, and providing habitat for deep-water fishes. There is biodiversity of marine species in the sea where nutrient cycles are common. Ocean waves.jpg
The ocean is an example of a natural resource. Ocean waves can be used to generate wave power, a renewable energy source. Ocean water is important for salt production, desalination, and providing habitat for deep-water fishes. There is biodiversity of marine species in the sea where nutrient cycles are common.
A picture of the Udachnaya pipe, an open-pit diamond mine in Siberia. An example of a non-renewable natural resource. Udachnaya pipe.JPG
A picture of the Udachnaya pipe, an open-pit diamond mine in Siberia. An example of a non-renewable natural resource.

Natural resources are resources that are drawn from nature and used with few modifications. This includes the sources of valued characteristics such as commercial and industrial use, aesthetic value, scientific interest, and cultural value. On Earth, it includes sunlight, atmosphere, water, land, all minerals along with all vegetation, and wildlife. [1] [2] [3] [4]


Natural resources are part of humanity's natural heritage or protected in nature reserves. Particular areas (such as the rainforest in Fatu-Hiva) often feature biodiversity and geodiversity in their ecosystems. Natural resources may be 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, or any living organism such as a fish, or it may be transformed by extractivist industries into an economically useful form that must be processed to obtain the resource such as metal ores, rare-earth elements, petroleum, timber and most forms of energy. Some resources are renewable, which means that they can be used at a certain rate and natural processes will restore them, whereas many extractive industries rely heavily on non-renewable resources that can only be extracted once.

Natural-resource allocations can be at the center of many economic and political confrontations both within and between countries. This is particularly true during periods of increasing scarcity and shortages (depletion and overconsumption of resources). Resource extraction is also a major source of human rights violations and environmental damage. The Sustainable Development Goals and other international development agendas frequently focus on creating more sustainable resource extraction, with some scholars and researchers focused on creating economic models, such as circular economy, that rely less on resource extraction, and more on reuse, recycling and renewable resources that can be sustainably managed.


There are various criteria of classifying natural resources. These include the source of origin, stages of development, renewability and ownership.


Stage of development


The waters of the White Nile River are a key natural resource for Uganda. Waters of the Victoria Nile in the Murchison Falls National Park.jpg
The waters of the White Nile River are a key natural resource for Uganda.



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; [7] 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. People often accuse extractive industry businesses as acting only to maximize 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. [8] A strong civil society can play an important role in ensuring the effective management of natural resources. Norway can serve as a role model in this regard as it has good institutions and open and dynamic public debate with strong civil society actors that provide an effective checks and balances system for the government's management of extractive industries, such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global standard for the good governance of oil, gas and mineral resources. It seeks to address the key governance issues in the extractive sectors. [9]


Wind is a natural resource that can be used to generate electricity, as with these 5 MW wind turbines in Thorntonbank Wind Farm 28 km (17 mi) off the coast of Belgium. Windmills D1-D4 - Thornton Bank.jpg
Wind is a natural resource that can be used to generate electricity, as with these 5 MW wind turbines in Thorntonbank Wind Farm 28 km (17 mi) off the coast of Belgium.

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 for countries to take to sustain their natural resources. [10] The depletion of natural resources is considered a sustainable development issue. [11] 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'; [12] however, in broad terms it is balancing the needs of the planet's people and species now and in the future. [10] In regards to natural resources, depletion is of concern for sustainable development as it has the ability to degrade current environments [13] and the potential to impact the needs of future generations. [11]

"The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others."

Theodore Roosevelt [14]

Depletion of natural resources is associated with social inequity. Considering most biodiversity are located in developing countries, [15] depletion of this resource could result in losses of ecosystem services for these countries. [16] Some view this depletion as a major source of social unrest and conflicts in developing nations. [17]

At present, there is a particular concern for rainforest regions that hold most of the Earth's biodiversity. [18] According to Nelson, [19] 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 34 of the world's prescription medicines have ingredients taken from plants, [16] loss of the world's rainforests could result in a loss of finding more potential life-saving medicines. [20]

The depletion of natural resources is caused by 'direct drivers of change' [19] such as mining, petroleum extraction, fishing, and forestry as well as 'indirect drivers of change' such as demography (e.g. population growth), economy, society, politics, and technology. [19] 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 [19] and desertification. [10] 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 and former United States president, who was opposed to unregulated natural resource extraction.


In 1982, the United Nations developed the World Charter for Nature, which recognized the need to protect nature from further depletion due to human activity. It states that measures must 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. [21] 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, [22] 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. [23] [24] It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on science, economics and the practice of natural resource management. [25] [26] [27] [28] 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. Soulé.

Habitat conservation is a type of land management 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. [29]


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 quality of life for present and future generations. Hence, sustainable development is followed according to judicial use of resources to supply both the present generation and future generations. The disciplines of fisheries, forestry, and wildlife are examples of large subdisciplines of natural resource management.

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. [30] The resources may be managed by the users according to the rules governing when and how the resource is used depending on local condition [31] or the resources may be managed by a governmental organization or other central authority. [32]

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..." [33] because of the nature of the shared resources, the individuals who are affected by the rules can participate in setting or changing them. [30] 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. [31] 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 violate the rules. [30] These conflicts are resolved in a quick and low cost manner by the local institution according to the seriousness and context of the offence. [31] The global science-based platform to discuss natural resources management is the World Resources Forum, based in Switzerland.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sustainable development</span> Mode of human development

Sustainable development is an organizing principle that aims to meet human development goals while also enabling natural systems to provide necessary natural resources and ecosystem services to humans. The desired result is a society where living conditions and resources meet human needs without undermining the planetary integrity and stability of the natural system. Sustainable development tries to find a balance between economic development, environmental protection, and social well-being. The Brundtland Report in 1987 defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". The concept of sustainable development nowadays has a focus on economic development, social development and environmental protection for future generations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Natural capital</span> Worlds stock of natural resources

Natural capital is the world's stock of natural resources, which includes geology, soils, air, water and all living organisms. Some natural capital assets provide people with free goods and services, often called ecosystem services. All of these underpin our economy and society, and thus make human life possible.

This is an index of conservation topics. It is an alphabetical index of articles relating to conservation biology and conservation of the natural environment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Resource depletion</span> Depletion of natural organic and inorganic resources

Resource depletion is the consumption of a resource faster than it can be replenished. Natural resources are commonly divided between renewable resources and non-renewable resources. Use of either of these forms of resources beyond their rate of replacement is considered to be resource depletion. The value of a resource is a direct result of its availability in nature and the cost of extracting the resource, the more a resource is depleted the more the value of the resource increases. There are several types of resource depletion, the most known being: Aquifer depletion, deforestation, mining for fossil fuels and minerals, pollution or contamination of resources, slash-and-burn agricultural practices, soil erosion, and overconsumption, excessive or unnecessary use of resources.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Non-renewable resource</span> Class of natural resources

A non-renewable resource is a natural resource that cannot be readily replaced by natural means at a pace quick enough to keep up with consumption. An example is carbon-based fossil fuels. The original organic matter, with the aid of heat and pressure, becomes a fuel such as oil or gas. Earth minerals and metal ores, fossil fuels and groundwater in certain aquifers are all considered non-renewable resources, though individual elements are always conserved.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental protection</span> Practice of protecting the natural environment

Environmental protection is the practice of protecting the natural environment by individuals, groups and governments. Its objectives are to conserve natural resources and the existing natural environment and, where it is possible, to repair damage and reverse trends.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Exploitation of natural resources</span> Use of natural resources for economic growth

The exploitation or destruction of natural resources is the use of natural resources for economic growth, sometimes with a negative connotation of accompanying environmental degradation. Environmental degradation can result from depletion of natural resources, this would be accompanied by negative effects to the economic growth of the effected areas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sustainable fishery</span> Sustainable fishing for the long term fishing

A conventional idea of a sustainable fishery is that it is one that is harvested at a sustainable rate, where the fish population does not decline over time because of fishing practices. Sustainability in fisheries combines theoretical disciplines, such as the population dynamics of fisheries, with practical strategies, such as avoiding overfishing through techniques such as individual fishing quotas, curtailing destructive and illegal fishing practices by lobbying for appropriate law and policy, setting up protected areas, restoring collapsed fisheries, incorporating all externalities involved in harvesting marine ecosystems into fishery economics, educating stakeholders and the wider public, and developing independent certification programs.

The sustainable yield is a form of sustainability that refers to the maximum harvest that does not deplete or over-harvest where the renewable resource can not grow back. In the simplest terms, sustainable yield is the largest amount of resource that humans can take or use without causing damage or allowing for a decline to happen in the specific population. In more formal terms, the sustainable yield of natural capital is the ecological yield that can be extracted without reducing the base of capital itself, i.e. the surplus required to maintain ecosystem services at the same or increasing level over time. The term only refers to resources that are renewable in nature as extracting non-renewable resources will always diminish the natural capital. The sustainable yield of a given resource will generally vary over time with the ecosystem's needs to maintain itself, e.g. a forest that has recently suffered a blight or flooding or fire will require more of its own ecological yield to sustain and re-establish a mature forest. While doing so, the sustainable yield may be much less. The term sustainable yield is most commonly used in forestry, fisheries, and groundwater applications.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental resource management</span> Type of resource management

Environmental resource management is the management of the interaction and impact of human societies on the environment. It is not, as the phrase might suggest, the management of the environment itself. Environmental resources management aims to ensure that ecosystem services are protected and maintained for future human generations, and also maintain ecosystem integrity through considering ethical, economic, and scientific (ecological) variables. Environmental resource management tries to identify factors affected by conflicts that rise between meeting needs and protecting resources. It is thus linked to environmental protection, sustainability, integrated landscape management, natural resource management, fisheries management, forest management, and wildlife management, and others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sustainable forest management</span> Management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development

Sustainable forest management (SFM) is the management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development. Sustainable forest management has to keep the balance between three main pillars: ecological, economic and socio-cultural. Sustainable forestry can seem contradicting to some individuals as the act of logging trees is not sustainable. However, the goal of sustainable forestry is to allow for a balance to be found between ethical forestry and maintaining biodiversity through the means of maintaining natural patterns of disturbance and regeneration. The forestry industry mitigates climate change by boosting carbon storage in growing trees and soils and improving the sustainable supply of renewable raw materials via sustainable forest management. Successfully achieving sustainable forest management will provide integrated benefits to all, ranging from safeguarding local livelihoods to protecting biodiversity and ecosystems provided by forests, reducing rural poverty and mitigating some of the effects of climate change. Forest conservation is essential to stop climate change.

Forest management is a branch of forestry concerned with overall administrative, legal, economic, and social aspects, as well as scientific and technical aspects, such as silviculture, protection, and forest regulation. This includes management for timber, aesthetics, recreation, urban values, water, wildlife, inland and nearshore fisheries, wood products, plant genetic resources, and other forest resource values. Management objectives can be for conservation, utilisation, or a mixture of the two. Techniques include timber extraction, planting and replanting of different species, building and maintenance of roads and pathways through forests, and preventing fire.

Resource refers to all the materials available in our environment which are technologically accessible, economically feasible and culturally sustainable and help us to satisfy our needs and wants. Resources can broadly be classified upon their availability — they are classified into renewable and non-renewable resources. They can also be classified as actual and potential on the basis of the level of development and use, on the basis of origin they can be classified as biotic and abiotic, and on the basis of their distribution, as ubiquitous and localised. An item becomes a resource with time and developing technology. The benefits of resource utilization may include increased wealth, proper functioning of a system, or enhanced well-being. From a human perspective, a natural resource is anything obtained from the environment to satisfy human needs and wants. From a broader biological or ecological perspective, a resource satisfies the needs of a living organism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Natural resource management</span> Management of natural resources

Natural resource management (NRM) is 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 (stewardship).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sustainability</span> Goal of people safely co-existing on Earth

Sustainability is a social goal for people to co-exist on Earth over a long time. Specific definitions of this term are disputed and have varied with literature, context, and time. Experts often describe sustainability as having three dimensions : environmental, economic, and social, and many publications emphasize the environmental dimension. In everyday use, sustainability often focuses on countering major environmental problems, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, loss of ecosystem services, land degradation, and air and water pollution. The idea of sustainability can guide decisions at the global, national, and individual levels. A related concept is sustainable development, and the terms are often used to mean the same thing. UNESCO distinguishes the two like this: "Sustainability is often thought of as a long-term goal, while sustainable development refers to the many processes and pathways to achieve it."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">International Resource Panel</span>

The International Resource Panel is a scientific panel of experts that aims to help nations use natural resources sustainably without compromising economic growth and human needs. It provides independent scientific assessments and expert advice on a variety of areas, including:

Natural capital accounting is the process of calculating the total stocks and flows of natural resources and services in a given ecosystem or region. Accounting for such goods may occur in physical or monetary terms. This process can subsequently inform government, corporate and consumer decision making as each relates to the use or consumption of natural resources and land, and sustainable behaviour.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration</span>

The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration runs from 2021 to 2030. Similar to other nature related international decades, its purpose is to promote the United Nation's environmental goals. Specifically, to facilitate global cooperation for the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems. Along with fostering efforts to combat climate change, safeguard biodiversity, food security, and water supply. While much focus is on promoting restoration activity by national governments, the UN also wishes to promote such efforts from other actors, ranging from the private sector and NGOs to regular individuals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sustainable Development Goal 15</span> 15th of 17 Sustainable Development Goals to protect life on land

Sustainable Development Goal 15 is about "Life on land". One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015, the official wording is: "Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss". The Goal has 12 targets to be achieved by 2030. Progress towards targets will be measured by 14 indicators.

Inclusive wealth is the aggregate value of all capital assets in a given region, including human capital, social capital, public capital, and natural capital. Maximizing inclusive wealth is often a goal of sustainable development. The Inclusive Wealth Index is a metric for inclusive wealth within countries: unlike gross domestic product (GDP), the Inclusive Wealth Index "provides a tool for countries to measure whether they are developing in a way that allows future generations to meet their own needs".


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