Natural resources are referred to as biophysical materials that satisfy human wants and provide direct inputs to human well-being. They are widely scattered all over the earth and are unevenly distributed, including the flora and fauna, the mineral deposits, water bodies, consisting of sea, river, ocean streams and lake, weather and climate, rocks, and various other resources. All these naturally occurring resources need to be protected so that the future generation can have the chance to use them too.
Different parts of the world have different resources; since these resources are not evenly distributed all over the world, places that lack certain resources can trade with another country to get the resource. Countries with low or that have no natural resources are said to be underdeveloped, their quality of life is very low which also have a lot of negative impact on the economic development and the level of production.
What are Natural resources?
Natural resources are the products of geological, hydrological, and biological processes that occur naturally without human effort. They are also referred to as “The gifts of nature“. Naturally occurring resources are defined as any source of wealth that occurs naturally, especially minerals, fossil fuels, and timber; they are not and cannot be provided for by man through his initiative skills, but are only provided for by nature itself. However, they are derived from the natural environment and are technologically accessible, economically feasible, and culturally acceptable. These resources are not evenly distributed all over the earth, certain factors like climate, terrain, and altitude directly or indirectly affect the formation of natural resources in different places.
Examples of Natural resources
These are common examples we use within our surrounding:
- Water in form of a lake, stream, river, waterfall, and wells
- Atmospheric gases
- Natural gas
Types of Natural resources
Natural resources are classified into three categories which include
- Based on origin (biotic and abiotic)
- Based on availability (renewable and non-renewable)
- Stage of development
In terms of origin, natural resources are classified into biotic and abiotic natural resources
Biotic natural resources
These types of natural resources are derived from living and organic material such as forests and animals and the various products obtained from them, they are also referred to as living natural resources. Biotic natural resources also include fossil fuels (coal and petroleum) which are formed from organic matter that has decayed.
Abiotic natural resources
These types of natural resources are derived from non-living things and non-organic material. They are also referred to as non-living natural resources; their rate of formation is very slow and can be exhausted if consumed excessively. Examples of these resources include land, freshwater, air, and heavy metals (gold, iron, copper, silver, etc. these resources are in great demand in the development of industries.
In terms of renewability, natural resources are classified as renewable and non-renewable resources.
Renewable resources are those resources that can be replaced or reproduced relatively quickly after being exploits; their availability is not affected by the level of consumption. Examples include forests, soil, water, and fisheries. The highest rate at which a resource can be used sustainably is the sustainable yield. Some resources, like sunlight, air, and wind are called perpetual resources because they are available continuously, but at a limited rate. Their quantity is not affected by human consumption. Many renewable resources can be depleted by human use, but may also be reproduced and the balanced is maintained. Some of these resources include agricultural crops which don’t take a longer time to be renewed while others include water which takes a comparatively longer time and others, like forests, take even longer to be renewed.
These types of resources take a longer time to occur on the earth’s surface and once exploited by man cannot be replenished since their rate of formation is very slow. Examples of non-renewable resources include minerals and fossils. Out of these, it is only the metallic mineral resources that can be re-used by recycling them, while coal and petroleum cannot be recycled.
Classification based on the stage of development:
Potential resources are those resources that exist in a region and may be used in the future. For example, petroleum occurs with sedimentary rocks in various regions, but until the time it is actually drilled out and put into use, it can remain there untouched forever.
Actual resources are those resources 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 depends upon the technology available and the cost involved.
The part of an actual resource that can be developed profitably in the future is called a reserve resource.
Stock resources are those resources that have been surveyed but cannot be used by organisms due to a lack of technology. Hydrogen is an example of these types of resources.
Depletion of Natural resources
Resource depletion is the excessive consumption of a resource faster than it can be replenished. Depletion of natural resources could lead to loss of ecosystem and may further lead to social unrest and conflicts, especially in developing nations.
Causes of natural resources depletion
- Overconsumption and waste- this is the excessive and unnecessary consumption of natural resources.
- Technological and Industrial development.
- Mining of minerals and oil.
- Pollution and contamination of resources.
- Overpopulation- excess demand on earth’s resources due to population increase.
- Deforestation and the destruction of ecosystems leading to loss of biodiversity.
Conservation of Natural resources
There is a need for the preservation of natural resources for future generations. Governments and various organizations should develop measures to protect nature from further depletion due to human activity. Protection policies state the necessary actions internationally, nationally, and individuals that must take place to control natural resource depletion that is a result of human activity. Certain measures need to be taken at all societal levels, from international to individual, to protect the natural environment from falling apart.
Management of Natural resources
This is the use of natural resources taking into account economic, environmental, and social concerns. The process deals with managing natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants, and animals. Particular focus is placed on how their preservation influences the quality of life now and for future generations.
Uses and Importance
- Wind for example is a natural resource harnessed for powering windmills.
- Wind modifies the weather and climatic conditions of places; it helps in the pollination of flowers and in drying of clothes, agricultural products such as beans, maize, millet, and cocoa.
- Rain also helps to modify the weather, it aids plant growth and it is an important source of water for rivers, streams, and underground water.
- The atmospheric gas is a natural gas that is very important to both humans and animals; this is released by plants as oxygen.
- Atmospheric gas reduces the effects of ultraviolet rays and it’s also useful to plants to carry out photosynthesis.
- Water as a natural resource is gotten from different sources, such as rivers, lakes, and oceans; it is often used for transporting people and goods from one place to another.
- These water bodies serve as a source of mineral deposits, for instance, salt, shell food, fish, and other seafood.
- Forest provides us with timber, woods, robes, pulp, herbs, and fibers, the forest serves as a natural tourist center and it is also a source of revenue and foreign exchange for the government in the countries where it is located.