Classification of natural resources: the 8 main categories
A summary of the types of natural resources that humans have exploited to sustain themselves.
The classification of natural resources shows us the diversity of materials and elements available in nature that we can use to develop all kinds of technological solutions to our problems. and that we can use to develop all kinds of technological solutions to our problems.
In this article we will see what are the different types of natural resources and several examples of these categories, which can be used to distinguish between renewable and non-renewable, potential and actual, biotic and abiotic, and in reserves or in stock.
Classification of natural resources
Let's start with the most important: what are natural resources? We can define them as elements existing in nature (i.e. that do not exist thanks to the work of human beings) and that, after being introduced into a product production process, can be given an essential utility for the way of life of human societies, can be given an essential utility for the way of life of human societies..
Thus, natural resources serve to maintain the basic Biological processes of the members of our species, and also make possible a way of life that defines our communities, either by shaping their ways of socializing, or their way of inhabiting their environments and extracting other resources from nature.
As we shall see, technological development and the application of human intelligence to the management of environments have turned a wide variety of solid, liquid and gaseous elements into natural resources (although it has also had negative consequences on the environment).
In addition, natural resources are the material on which the activity of the extractive industry is based, an important part of the primary sector of the economy, and at the beginning of the production chain of products used by our species to satisfy the most diverse needs.The extractive industry, an important part of the primary sector of the economy, is at the beginning of the production chain of products used by our species to satisfy the most diverse needs.
At the same time, it is necessary to control and record the way in which natural resources are extracted from the earth's surface, because this process has a high environmental cost. this process has a high environmental cost that we must try to minimize in order to preserve the environment as far as possible and prevent the existing balance in ecosystems and biomes from being broken by human interference.
Given a summary definition to understand this basic concept for human existence, let us now see how natural resources are classified according to different criteria.
Non-renewable resources are those that either degrade at a much faster rate than they are formed, which means that in practice it is as if we have a finite amount of these materials at our disposal. in practice, it is as if we have a finite amount of these materials available to us..
On the other hand, extracting these materials from the earth in quantities that are profitable is now only within the reach of large mining corporations and the oil industry.
Examples of this category of natural resources are the elements used to make fossil fuels, and certain minerals and metals used in industrial processes.
Usable minerals and metals
Among these materials that are useful to human society we find common examples such as copper and iron, which gave rise to the first civilizations..
Coal, which led to the first Industrial Revolution.is an example of a material used as a fossil fuel, as well as petroleum (although the latter has many other uses and applications that go far beyond obtaining energy).
2. Renewable resources
Renewable resources are not degraded at a sufficiently rapid rate to be considered as a finite quantity available, given that the natural dynamics of planet Earth already produce more of these resources by themselves.
The natural environments provide us, in most of their ecosystems, with food from which the food from which the human species can nourish itself.. The direct use of these resources without going through agriculture or domestication was the way of life that hominids adopted for hundreds of thousands of years, from the adoption of the typical customs of hunter-gatherer peoples.
However, the overexploitation of certain plants, fungi and animals can lead some species to extinction. can lead to the extinction of some speciesThis impoverishes ecosystems and makes them unstable.
Water is one of the most representative examples that can be that fall into this category.
Although fresh water is present in large quantities in the earth's crust, polluting it can make it unfit for consumption.
Air is one of the most important types of natural resources for any animal, since without it we would die within minutes. without it we would die in a matter of minutes. As with fresh water, it is available in high quantities, but its mixture with certain gases can make it toxic and unsuitable for use by our organisms.
Sunlight can be used to obtain energy for direct use in our new technological systems based on solar panels that transform the sun's rays into electricity, but it also influences agriculture. also influences agriculture.
3. Stock resources
These are sets of resources whose location is known to us, but whose exploitation is impossible for the momentbecause we lack the technology to do so. This is the case, for example, with freshwater deposits found at great depth under a thick layer of rock.
4. Potential resources
This category is used to classify natural resources whose location is known in an approximate way, although for different reasons it is not yet possible to extract them from nature and use them in a profitable way, This could happen in the medium or long term, depending on our plans and priorities..
For example, if it is known that there are copper deposits under a certain mountain but the market situation makes it inadvisable to invest capital in extracting this material, we are talking about a potential natural resource.
Reserves are deposits of fossil fuels for which we know the basic information and whose exploitation is already possible with technology. whose exploitation is already possible with the technology available to us, and it would be profitable to do so.It would be profitable to do so, but they are not being exploited at the moment.
6. Current resources
Unlike the previous concept, in this case we are talking about natural resource deposits for which we already know precisely all the most important information, we have already been able to access them, and they are already being exploited. are already being exploited.
7. Biotic resources
This category includes all natural resources that are of organic origin and can be cultivated or domesticated to have a more or less regular rate of extraction (not necessarily in large quantities).
These are typically plants, animals and fungi, as well as certain bacteria.Typically these are plants, animals and fungi, as well as certain bacteria, although in many Western countries the debate is being opened as to whether sentient animals should be considered resources.
8. Abiotic resources
In this last part of the classification of natural resources we find materials that are not of living organic originminerals, water, sunlight, air, natural gas, etc.
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(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)