Natural resources are substances or materials that exist on Earth without human input or effort but can be exploited for economic gain or other purposes by man. These substances exist freely in nature.
Furthermore, natural resources can be categorized as Renewable or Non-renewable resources. Where renewable natural resources are those types of natural resources that can be replaced naturally even after repeated exploitation of such resources by man.
Examples of renewable natural resources include but are not limited to Oxygen, Freshwater, timber, solar energy, and wind. In short, renewable resources are not subject to a risk of resource depletion, a major risk associated with other classes of natural resources.
On the other hand, non-renewable resources are those types of natural resources that cannot be replaced in a lifetime. More often than not, natural resources on this class require some millions of years for these resources to be regenerated by the Earth.
Examples of non-renewable natural resources include Fossil fuels, Metal ores, Groundwater (sometimes) and the various Earth minerals. This class of natural resources cannot be heavily relied upon for constant economic gain as the supply of this resource is finite.
13 Examples of Natural resources
Below are fifteen (13) excellent examples of natural resources:
1. Soil (Land)
The soil is one of the most abundant and important natural resources on Earth. It is required both directly and indirectly for food production, manufacturing of industrial raw materials, and for generation of energy sources. It is essential for the function of ecosystems providing nutrients, oxygen, water, and heat.
Soil resources are often exposed to degradation by poor agricultural practices and chemical contamination. A significant challenge facing current and future generations is the preservation of this irreplaceable natural resource from physical destruction and pollution.
Water is also one of the most important natural resources for the existence of life. Although fresh water is often considered a renewable resource, most water comes from groundwater sources that are being depleted faster than they could be replenished.
Whereas water could be seen as the most abundant of all resources, it is quite scarce in some regions of the world and could be easily contaminants by various activities such as Deforestation, Urban growth, Pollution, and Climate change.
Common salt, chemically known as sodium chloride, is an essential mineral requirement for healthy living of humans and animals.
This natural resource is mined through one of four methods. The processes are as described:
- Underground rock salt mining
- Solution mining by injecting a solvent that dissolves underground salt, which is then recovered through solar evaporation.
- Seawater evaporation: in which seawater is collected from solar evaporation ponds, and
- Inland solar evaporation: This process is similar to seawater evaporation but takes place inland.
About 40% of the salt mined is used in the chemical industry, with another 40% being used as a deicer on roads in the winter. The 20% leftover is spread out over processing of table salt, and manufacturing of rubber and other goods.
Trees provide a habitat for many species of plants and animals. Trees lower air temperatures and humidity. They can also influence wind speed. Trees also help to reduce flooding and soil erosion. Trees are the main source of oxygen and fresh air. Trees provide shade, shelter, fruits, timber as well as many other things.
Timber, which is obtained from trees, is an important renewable natural resource in many societies around the world. Production can be both sustainable and economical if approached in a responsible way. That is if the production of timber is carried out in such a way that deforestation does not ensue.
Timbers are very useful in the creation of for use in construction. They are also be roughly shaped and used as heavy duty beams and columns. Timber is also used to make paper products, fiberboard, hardboard, plywood, and particle board.
Copper has been used for several thousands of years. It is one of the first metals ever used by man. It is one of the few metallic elements that occur in a natural form.
A significant proportion of copper is used in the manufacture of electrical wires, industrial machinery as well as in roofing and plumbing activities. Copper is also used as a fungicide in Agriculture and as a nutritional supplement in the health sector. The United States of America is the second largest producer of copper, which is mined from copper ores and recovered through recycling. The quality of copper materials is often retained after recycling processes, thus, almost as much copper is recovered through recycling as is derived from newly mined ore.
Bauxite occurs as rocks in soils with very little soluble materials that are located in wet tropical climates. It is the main ingredient in making aluminum metal. Nearly all aluminum ever produced has bauxite as its source. Bauxite is also used in hydraulic fracturing a process in the drilling process for oil and gas.
Iron is all around us and is the world’s most commonly used metal. Iron is a good conductor of electricity and it is durable and plentiful, making up about 5% of the Earth’s crust. This is why it is used in the manufacture of steel, electrical wiring and conduit pipes, hinges, tools, door handles, stoves, sofa frames, pots, and pans. Major sources of Iron in the world include Brazil, Australia, and South Africa.
Helium is non-reactive, thus, it is used in the creation of a protective inert atmosphere in the manufacture of fiber optics and semiconductors. Helium is used to detect leaks in air-conditioning systems. It is also used to inflate air-bags in vehicles because it is non-toxic and diffuses quickly.
Ever heard of helium balloons? Helium is very useful in other sectors apart from the tourism or recreational sector. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, Helium is very necessary as a cooling medium for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), satellite instruments, superconducting magnets in MRI scanners and NMR spectrometers.
Although helium is the second most abundant element in the solar system, it is considered a non-renewable resource. Most of Earth’s helium is produced where coincidences of unlikely situations occur within the Earth’s crust. This makes the gas very rare. Extracting helium from the air is highly uneconomical, yielding less than 0.00052% in air.
Coal has been used as a source of heat energy for many centuries; it has become the primary source of fuel for generation of heat and electricity in this present day because of its high energy output and relative cheapness when compared to other sources.
This resource is a fossil fuel created through a process known as ‘coalification’. Plants formed millions of years ago in swamp forests died and formed layers of peat that were buried through geological processes which gradually changed to coal under intense heat and pressure in low oxygen environments.
Oil is produced from the decomposition of organic decay matter of plant and animals that died millions of years ago. Oil is the main source of energy for most of the nations to fulfill their daily energy needs. It is used for the production of diesel, propane, gasoline, jet fuel and few more. It is limited in supply and will expire one day.
9. Natural Gas
Natural gas supplies about 22% of the nation’s energy needs and is used as an energy source for heating, cooking, and generation of electricity. It is useful in the production of plastics and other commercially important organic compounds.
This resource is a fossil fuel created by the decomposition of organic material, usually from ancient marine organisms, in an anaerobic environment. Two categories of natural gas deposits are known. They are: conventional and unconventional. Typical deposits of natural gas are associated with oil reserves, and unconventional deposits include coal bed methane, shale gas, and tight-gas sandstone. Related to natural gas is propane, which is a by-product of natural gas production. While it’s not considered to be truly ‘natural’ it is, according to this propane industry guide, an energy efficient “green fuel”.
10. Living Organisms
An organism is any living system (such as animal, plant, fungus, or micro-organism). All living organisms are made of cells, which are the units of life. People need these organisms for food, medicine, and other purposes.
10. Atmospheric resources (Sunlight, Air, Rainfall, Temperature)
Atmospheric resources such as sunlight, rainfall, temperature are believed to have permitted the existence of life on the Earth. These atmospheric resources were given to humankind by nature and are important for our survival on this planet.
Air, for example, is the Earth’s atmosphere. Air is a mixture of a group of gases and dust particles. Air is comprised of about 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.9% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and very small amounts of other gases like neon, helium, methane, hydrogen, etc. There is an average of about 1% water vapor. Water vapor is the source of all forms of precipitation. The weight of air creates atmospheric pressure.
Metals include gold, silver, copper, aluminum, nickel, iron, platinum and palladium.
12. Geographical resources (Landforms and Ecosystem)
Nature created certain geographical features like oceans, lakes, rocks, a valley that are going to remain with us forever. These are naturally-created features of the Earth. Natural geographical features consist of landforms and ecosystems.
A gemstone is a piece of mineral crystal which is used to make jewelry and other adornments. Few examples of gemstones include Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, diamond, opal, turquoise, etc.