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Natural resources are that exist without actions of humankind. This includes all valued characteristics such as magnetic, gravitational, electrical properties and forces etc. On earth it includes: , , , (includes all minerals) along with all , and animal life that naturally subsists upon or within the heretofore identified characteristics and substances.

Particular areas such as are often characterized by the and 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, , 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 , rare earth metals, , 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) but also because the exportation of natural resources is the basis .

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

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

  • Biotic — Biotic resources are obtained from the (living and organic material), such as and , and the materials that can be obtained from them. such as and 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 , fresh , , rare earth metals and heavy metals including such as , , , , 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, occurs with sedimentary rocks in various regions, 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 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: .

Many natural resources can be categorized as either renewable or non-renewable:

  • 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 . 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 of the economy. Extraction produces , which is then processed to . Examples of extractive industries are , , , oil and gas drilling, and . 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 ("") and corruption, leading to inequality and underdevelopment, this is known as the "".

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. A strong civil society can play an important role in ensuring 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 government's management of extractive industries.Indra Overland (2018) ‘Introduction: Civil Society, Public Debate and Natural Resource Management’, in Indra Overland (ed.) Public Brainpower: Civil Society and Natural Resource Management, Cham: Palgrave, pp. 1–22.

Depletion of resources

In recent years, the depletion of natural resources has become a major focus of governments and organizations such as the (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.Schilling M and Chiang L 2011 The effect of natural resources on sustainable development policy: The approach of non-sustainable externalities. Energy Policy 39: 990–998 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 environmentsSalvati L and Marco Z 2008 Natural resource depletion and economic performance of local districts: suggestions from a within-country analysis Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology. 15(6): 518–523 and potential to impact the needs of future generations.

Depletion of natural resources is associated with . Considering most biodiversity are located in developing countries,UNESCO and UNEP 2002 Cultural Diversity and Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg. depletion of this resource could result in losses of ecosystem services for these countries.Nellemann C and Corcoran E 2010 Dead Planet, Living Planet- Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development: A Rapid Response Assessment. United Nations Environment Program, GRID-Arendal Some view this depletion as a major source of social unrest and conflicts in developing nations.Von Braun J cited in Inforesources Trends 2005 Depletion of Natural Resources – Implications for Development: An assessment by experts Berne, Switzerland

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.Clark H cited in UNESCO and UNEP 2002 Cultural Diversity and Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg

The depletion of natural resources is caused by 'direct drivers of change' such as , petroleum extraction, and forestry as well as 'indirect drivers of change' such as demography, economy, society, politics and technology. The current practice of 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 and former United States president, who was opposed to unregulated natural resource extraction.

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 , WWF and the 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 , their , and ecosystems from excessive rates of .M. E. Soulé and B. A. Wilcox. 1980. Conservation Biology: An Evolutionary-Ecological Perspective. Sinauer Associatess. Sunderland, Massachusetts.M. E. Soule. (1986). What is conservation Biology? , 35(11): 727–734 [1] It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on science, economics and the practice of natural resource management.

(1986). 9780878937950, Sinauer Associates.
Hunter, M. L. (1996). Fundamentals of Conservation Biology. Blackwell Science Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts., .Groom, M.J., Meffe, G.K. and Carroll, C.R. (2006) Principles of Conservation Biology (3rd ed.). Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA.
(2018). 9781402068904, Springer Verlag.
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 practice that seeks to conserve, protect and restore, areas for wild and , especially conservation reliant species, and prevent their , fragmentation or reduction in range.

Natural resource management is a discipline in the management of natural resources such as land, , , and , 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 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 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

See also
  • Conservation (ethic)
  • Environmental movement
  • Sustainable development

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