What are the Natural Resources? Definition, Types & Examples.

A resource is any natural or artificial substance, energy, or organism used by humans for its welfare.

Natural resources are the resources that are available freely in nature such as water, land, soil, rocks, forests, animals fossil fuels and minerals. They are the basis of life and all life forms depend on them.

Natural resources are used to survive and function properly.

Natural resources can be consumed directly or indirectly. Humans depend on forests directly for food, biomass, health, recreation etc. Indirectly forests help in climate regulation, prevention of floods, storm protection etc.

Artificial Resources

Resources developed by humans during the growth of civilisation are called artificial resources. For example, biogas, thermal electricity, plastics etc.

Natural resources can be in solid, liquid or gas form. They can be organic, inorganic, metallic or non-metallic.

Forms of Natural Resources

Different forms of natural resources are given below:

(i) Land Resource

Land as a resource is used for food production, residence and recreation. It is a finite (limited) resource, used for agriculture and non-agriculture such as developing infrastructure.

(ii) Forest Resource

A forest is a natural, self-sustaining community characterised by the presence of trees. Wood from the forest is used in making furniture, tool handles, railway sleepers, matches, ploughs, bridges, boats etc. Wood is also used as an energy source for cooking and keeping warm. Flora and fauna of forests provide other resources like tannins, gums, drugs, spices, waxes, honey, horns, musk, ivory, hides etc.

(iii) Water Resource

Water covers about three-quarters of Earth's surface which includes water in rivers, lakes, oceans, underground aquifers etc. It is a necessary element for life and vital in agriculture, \industry, household, recreation (activities like swimming, fishing) and in environmental activities.

(iv) Mineral Resource

A mineral deposit is a concentration of naturally occurring solid, liquid or gaseous material. They are present in or on the Earth's crust in such form that their extraction and conversion into valuable materials are profitable now or in future.

Minerals are non-renewable. They can be metals like iron, copper, aluminium or non-metals like salt, gypsum, clay, and sand Phosphates. Some minerals consist of a single element such as gold, silver, diamond, sulphur etc.

(v) Food Resources

Resources that are used as food or provide food for organisms are called food resources, e.g. plants. Agriculture is the main source of plant food for humans. Plants serve as a food resource for herbivores and omnivores. They are eaten by animals and birds who become the food for carnivores and omnivores. 

(vi) Energy Resources

Resources that produce heat and power that can be used as energy to produce electricity or to move objects are called energy resources.

Different types of energy resources are given below:

  • Nuclear fusion e.g. solar energy.
  • Gravity is generated by Sun and Moon.
  • Nuclear fission (atomic energy).
  • Energy in the interior of the Earth.
  • Energy is stored in chemical bonds, e.g. fossil fuels.

Fossil Fuels

It provides a huge amount of energy but they have harmful effects on the environment. They are also non-renewable.

Categories of Natural Resources

Natural resources can be categorised as follows:

Inexhaustible Resources: The resources which cannot be exhausted by human consumption are called inexhaustible resources, e.g. solar radiation, wind power, water power, tidal power etc.

Exhaustible Resources: Resources that are available in limited quantities and are going to be exhausted due to continuous use are called exhaustible resources e.g. stock of coal. It is in limited quantity and its continuous use will exhaust this resource.

Renewable Resources: Resources that are constantly available (like water) or can be replaced or recovered (like vegetative land) are called renewable resources. Some resources can be replaced but the process may take many years. They are not counted as renewable.

Some exhaustible resources are naturally regenerated, e.g. forest trees and plants. They are renewable. But if the forest is totally cut down to get land for the construction of buildings, then the forest cover is lost forever.

Renewable Energy Systems: Renewable resources that are constantly replaced and are less polluting are used to produce energy such as hydropower (energy from moving water), the solar, wind, and geothermal (energy from the heat inside the Earth).

Non-Renewable Resources: The resources that cannot be easily replaced once they are destroyed or used up are called non-renewable resources, e.g. fossil fuels, and minerals.

It takes thousands of years for minerals to form again in a process called the rock cycle, so it is a non-renewable resource.

Some non-renewable resources are called Inorganic Resources as they come from non-living things like minerals, they come from rocks, land, soil etc.