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 form food chains and 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 form food chains and biodiversity of species.
The Carson Fall in Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia is an example of undisturbed natural resource. 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 resource. 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. Ocean water is important for salt production, desalination, and providing habitat for deep water fishes. There are 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. Ocean water is important for salt production, desalination, and providing habitat for deep water fishes. There are 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 exist without any actions of humankind. This includes all valued characteristics such as commercial and industrial use, aesthetic value, scientific interest and cultural value. On Earth, it includes sunlight, atmosphere, water, land (includes all minerals) along with all vegetation, and animal life. [1] [2] [3] [4] Natural resources can be part of our natural heritage or protected in nature reserves.


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, as well as any 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 elements, petroleum, and most forms of energy.

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).


There are various methods of categorizing natural resources. These include the source of origin, stage of development, and by their renewability.

On the basis of origin, natural resources may be divided into two types:

Considering their stage of development, natural resources may be referred to in the following ways:

On the basis of recovery rate, natural resources can be categorized as follows:


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]

Depletion of resources

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 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. [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.

Natural resources by country

Value of natural resources by country (in USD trillions), 2016 [34]
Russia 79
United States 45
Saudi Arabia 34.5
Canada 33.2
Iran 27.3
China 23
Brazil 21.8
Australia 19.9
Iraq 15.9
Venezuela 14.3

See also

Related Research Articles

United Nations Environment Programme Programme of the United Nations

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is responsible for coordinating responses to environmental issues within the United Nations system. It was established by Maurice Strong, its first director, after the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in June 1972. Its mandate is to provide leadership, deliver science and develop solutions on a wide range of issues, including climate change, the management of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and green economic development. The organization also develops international environmental agreements; publishes and promotes environmental science and helps national governments achieve environmental targets.

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

Resource depletion

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.

Non-renewable resource

A non-renewable resource is a natural resource that cannot be readily replaced by natural means at a quick enough pace to keep up with consumption. An example is carbon-based fossil fuel. 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.

Renewable resource

A renewable resource is a natural resource which will replenish to replace the portion depleted by usage and consumption, either through natural reproduction or other recurring processes in a finite amount of time in a human time scale. Renewable resources are a part of Earth's natural environment and the largest components of its ecosphere. A positive life cycle assessment is a key indicator of a resource's sustainability.

Conservation biology The study of threats to biological diversity

Conservation biology is the study of the conservation of nature and of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on natural and social sciences, and the practice of natural resource management.

Environmental protection The practice of protecting the natural environment

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

Exploitation of natural resources

The exploitation of natural resources is the use of natural resources for economic growth, sometimes with a negative connotation of accompanying environmental degradation. It started to emerge on an industrial scale in the 19th century as the extraction and processing of raw materials developed much further than it had in preindustrial areas. During the 20th century, energy consumption rapidly increased. Today, about 80% of the world's energy consumption is sustained by the extraction of fossil fuels, which consists of oil, coal and natural gas. Another non-renewable resource that is exploited by humans is subsoil minerals such as precious metals that are mainly used in the production of industrial commodities. Intensive agriculture is an example of a mode of production that hinders many aspects of the natural environment, for example the degradation of forests in a terrestrial ecosystem and water pollution in an aquatic ecosystem. As the world population rises and economic growth occurs, the depletion of natural resources influenced by the unsustainable extraction of raw materials becomes an increasing concern.

Sustainable fishery

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.

Environmental degradation

Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems; habitat destruction; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution. It is defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable.

A green economy is an economy that aims at reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities, and that aims for sustainable development without degrading the environment. It is closely related with ecological economics, but has a more politically applied focus. The 2011 UNEP Green Economy Report argues "that to be green, an economy must not only be efficient, but also fair. Fairness implies recognizing global and country level equity dimensions, particularly in assuring a Just Transition to an economy that is low-carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive."

Environmental resource management 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.

The UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is an collaboration centre of UN Environment Programme, based in Cambridge in the United Kingdom. UNEP-WCMC has been part of UN Environment Programme since 2000, and has responsibility for biodiversity assessment and support to policy development and implementation. The World Conservation Monitoring Centre was previously an independent organisation jointly managed by IUCN, UN Environment Programme and WWF established in 1988. Prior to that, the Centre was a part of the IUCN Secretariat.

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.

A resource is a source or supply from which a benefit is produced and that has some utility. 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 non - 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.

Sustainability Process of maintaining change in a balanced fashion

Sustainability is the ability to exist constantly. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for Earth's biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. It is also defined as the process of people maintaining change in a homeostasis-balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations. For many in the field, sustainability is defined through the following interconnected domains or pillars: environmental, economic and social, which according to Fritjof Capra, is based on the principles of systems thinking. Sub-domains of sustainable development have been considered also: cultural, technological and political. According to Our Common Future, sustainable development is defined as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable development may be the organizing principle of sustainability, yet others may view the two terms as paradoxical.

Index of environmental articles Wikipedia index

The natural environment, commonly referred to simply as the environment, includes all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth.

Overexploitation Depleting a renewable resource

Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns. Continued overexploitation can lead to the destruction of the resource. The term applies to natural resources such as: wild medicinal plants, grazing pastures, game animals, fish stocks, forests, and water aquifers.

International Resource Panel

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:

Sustainable Development Goal 15 The 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.


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