What is Natural Resources?

  • Post last modified:30 October 2022
  • Reading time:11 mins read

Planet earth is equipped with a large and diverse variety of biodiversity that contains an abundance of goods and services for mankind. ‘Resources’ can be defined as a form of supply from a source that gives a certain benefit or value. Natural resources can be in form of a material, component or element of the ecosystem that can be used by man for their benefit. It could also be in form of a substance, unit of energy or a natural constituent or its process.

The environment consists of various forms of natural resources in abundance like air, water, land, soil, forests, grasslands etc. These resources in the environment are variable in regards to their quality, quantity, and location.

Categories of Natural Resource

The natural resources can be categorised into two categories, namely, Renewable (Inexhaustible) resources and Non-Renewable (Exhaustible) resources. The description of these resources are as follows:

Renewable (Inexhaustible) Resources

Renewable (Inexhaustible) resources are resources that can be replenished, for example, air, water, solar, land, soil, forest, food, minerals, etc. All renewable resources present on this planet are in huge limitless amounts but some of the renewable resources (for example Forest resource), if not used judiciously, may deplete forever. These are also called as Non-Conventional resources.

Some of the renewable resources are biotic in nature (for example Forest, Food etc.) and the production and growth of these resources are manageable since these resources keep generating continuously in the right conditions. This is possible since the natural resources of the ecosystem help with the production and process of the resources. Some of the renewable resources are:

  • The main steering force for any ecosystem is solar energy that provides the source of energy for the growth of its Producer community (example plants). The plant material in the forests gets recycled continuously through the process of decomposition by returning its dead material leaves, branches etc. to the soil.

  • Plants in an aquatic ecosystem are also dependent upon the solar energy for their proper growth. All organisms (Consumer Community) in this ecosystem are dependent for their growth and survival on these plants.

  • The water cycle is also steered by the rays of the sun. If there is a rapid consumption of these resources and it exceeds their rate of renewal then their quality becomes affected, and they may even deplete from this planet.

Non-Renewable (Exhaustible) Resources

The non-renewable (exhaustible) resources are those which are present in limited supply on our planet and if over-exploitation of these resources occur and are used in an unregulated manner will be depleted forever. These non-renewable resources are Coal, Oil (also called Petroleum) and Natural Gas. Together they are called Fossil Fuels and are present in limited amounts on our planet.

These are mineral based hydrocarbon fuels and were formed from prehistoric forests of ancient times (about 360-300 million years ago) which got fossilised. Unregulated and rampant burning of fossil fuels for energy production gives rise to new sets of problem. Burning of fossil fuels also adds Green House Gases (carbon dioxide, methane etc) in the environment and leads to the problem of Global Warming; a rise in the average temperature of entire planet taken annually.

This is the reason why various countries across the globe are looking for alternative methods of energy production. Majority of them are switching towards clean renewable sources of energy in the form of solar power from the sun, wind power, power from the movement of water in the oceans, hydropower etc. Uses of non-renewable resources are:

  • Coal: The natural resource of coal is made from the remains of plants that died millions of years ago. It has the highest level of carbon of all fossil fuels.

  • Oil: Oil is a type of fuel that is made from the remnants of ancient marine organisms, such as plants, algae and bacteria that died millions of years ago. Once the oil gets refined, it can be used to make products such as gasoline, petrol, diesel, jet fuels etc.

  • Natural Gas: Natural gas is formed when decomposing plants and animal matter form several layers and over millions of years they are then exposed to intense heat and pressure under the surface of the Earth. It is mainly composed of methane.

Nuclear Energy

One of the methods for producing nuclear energy is by the process of nuclear fission. When the nucleus of a heavy atom is bombarded with neutrons, the nucleus breaks down into smaller nuclei and, in the process, releases tremendous amount of energy. This energy can then be harvested for the production of electricity or can be used for other purposes.

Some scientists consider nuclear energy as a non-renewable resource of energy as the nuclear material used (for example Uranium) for its production is in finite quantity on our planet. While other scientists argue it to be a renewable resource of energy as nuclear material used (for example Thorium) is practically in very large amounts on our planet and can be used for thousands of years for energy production.

Conservation of Natural Resources

The natural resources of the earth are air, water, soil, minerals, plants and wildlife. It is necessary to conserve and protect the resources so that they can be available for future generations. For this, it is necessary to maintain the ecosystem through its diversity of different species, genes and organisms through the functions nutrient cycling of the environment.

The process of conservation helps with the sustainable development of the environment through the consistent and limited use of natural resources by mankind for their various activities of mining, hunting, agriculture etc.

An increase in the population of world has put additional pressure on the consumption of natural resources. Therefore, it is essential to conserve these resources for maintaining the ecological balance along with saving them for future generations.

Need to Conserve Natural Resources

The natural resources help to maintain a balanced environment on the earth by the process of regenerating in the natural environment. The natural environment is the habitat for micro-organisms, animals and plants and it helps to create a favourable environment for their survival.

Natural resources are essential and are used by mankind in various ways for their benefit. The proper utilisation of these resources will help with their conservation in the long run. On the other hand, it is necessary to find alternate sources for renewable natural resources so that we can reduce their consumption. The need for effective methods of conserving natural resources is:

  • Increase the use of unending resources
  • Maximise the production of renewable resources
  • Have minimum usage of non-renewable resources
  • Effectively recycle and re-use the non-renewable resources

Methods of Conserving Natural Resources

There are many ways of conserving the biodiversity of nature and the best method is to follow the principles of three “R’s” for conserving natural resources that are:

  • Reduce- Reduce the wastage
  • Reuse- by re-using the products
  • Recycle- by recycling the products

These methods help to minimise wastage and conserving natural resources through space, energy and landfill.

The methods involved in the conservation of natural resources are as follows:

  • Soil
    • By afforestation and planting trees for reducing soil erosion

    • Through terrace farming for controlling the flow of water

    • Keeping soil fertile by crop rotation and by adding manure or fertilizers

  • Water
    • Through Rainwater Harvesting for storing rainwater.

    • By treatment of Industrial Wastes before releasing them into the water bodies.

    • Building Dams and Reservoirs to store water and use it when required and also for producing energy.

    • By growing plants and tree to prevent the flow of water and increasing groundwater levels.

  • Energy sources
    • By conserving energy resources as they are non-renewable.

    • Promoting renewable resources of energy like green technology using solar panels.

    • Minimising the over-exploitation of non-renewable energy resources.

    • Spreading awareness among people about conservation

  • ‰‰Biodiversity
    • Protecting plants and animals within their natural habitats through ‘In-situ conservation’ of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, and more.

    • Protecting the plants and animals outside their natural habitat through ‘Ex-situ conservation’ that includes Seed Banks, Pollen Banks, Botanical Gardens, Zoo, and more.

Role of an Individual in the Conservation of Natural Resources

Every individual is responsible for judiciously using the natural resources so that it gives equal opportunities to everyone for using the resources for their benefits. The survival of the future generations would also be dependent on these resources, hence the resources should be used in a limited manner especially the non-renewable natural resources. The people are responsible for using water, land, energy, food, minerals, wood and other resources equitably for follow- ing a sustainable lifestyle. Human beings should:

  • Leave smaller environmental footprints by promoting sustainable lifestyles

  • Work at changing the energy consumption methods

  • Promoting healthy and sustainable consumption patterns

  • Understand the value of nature, environment and the natural resources

  • Be responsible for environmental and social costs

  • Initiate support for rewarding companies that promote conservation

  • Establish innovative and sustainable resource management activities

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