Natural Resources are resources that exist without any actions of humankind. This includes all valued characteristics such as magnetic, gravitational, electrical properties and forces, etc. On Earth, it includes sunlight, atmosphere, water, land (includes all minerals) along with all vegetation, crops, and animal life that naturally subsists upon or within the previously identified characteristics and substances.
Classification of Natural Resources
On the basis of origin, natural resources may be divided into two types:
- Biotic: Biotic resources are obtained from the biosphere (living and organic material), such as forests and animals, and the materials that can be obtained from them. Fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum 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 land, freshwater, air, rare-earth elements, and heavy metals including ores, such as gold, iron, copper, silver, etc.
Considering their stage of development, natural resources may be referred to in the following ways:
- Potential resources: Potential resources are those that may be used in the future—for example, petroleum in sedimentary rocks that, until drilled out and put to use remains a potential resource
- Actual resources: Those resources that have been surveyed, quantified, and qualified and, are currently used, development, such as wood processing, depends on technology and cost
- Reserve resources: The part of an actual resource that can be developed profitably in the future
- Stock resources: Those that have been surveyed, but cannot be used due to lack of technology—for example, hydrogen.
On the basis of the recovery rate, natural resources can be categorized as follows:
- Renewable resources: Renewable resources can be replenished naturally. There are some of these resources, like sunlight, air, wind, water, etc. are continuously available and their quantities are 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. From 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 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 recycled. Once they are completely used they take millions of years to replenish.
Difference Between Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources
|Renewable resource||Non-renewable resource|
|It can be renewed as it is available in infinite quantity||Once completely consumed, it cannot be renewed due to limited stock|
|Sustainable in nature||Exhaustible in nature|
|Low cost and environment-friendly||High cost and less environment-friendly|
|Replenish quickly||Replenish slowly or do not replenish naturally at all|