Classification of natural resources

Published on March 4, 2019 by Entrima

Natural resources can be classified in a variety of ways. First of all, there are renewables and non-renewables. Secondly, one could distinguish actual resources, potential resources and stock resources. Furthermore, there are ubiquitous resources and localised resources. In addition, one could say there are biotic and abiotic resources. All of these categorisations are set out below.

Ubiquitous resources versus localised resources

Some natural resources can be found everywhere. These resources are called ubiquitous resources. Examples concern sunlight and wind. On the contrary, most resources are localised resources, as they only exist in specific areas.

Biotic versus abiotic resources

Biotic resources are obtained from living and organic material, such as flora and fauna, and the materials that can be obtained from trees and animals. Examples of biotic resources concern grains and beans, but also fossil fuels. Abiotic resources are those that come from non-living, non-organic material. Examples concern fresh water, gold, silver and land.

Renewables versus non-renewables

Renewability is a very popular topic and many natural resources can be categorised as either renewable resources or non-renewable resources. Renewables concern elements that can be replenished naturally. Some of these elements are constantly available and their quantity is not noticeably affected by human consumption. Moreover, their recovery exceeds human consumption. Examples are sunlight, wind and geothermal energy.Non-renewable resources are resources that form extremely slowly and those that do not naturally form in the environment. Examples are minerals such as petroleum and uranium. Although it must be noted that uranium depletes in a natural way, since it transforms into heavy metals. These metallic minerals can be re-used by recycling, while fossil fuels cannot be recycled.

Another way to name renewables and non-renewables are by describing them as exhaustible and inexhaustible resources. Inexhaustible resources will not be depleted or run out in the foreseeable future. Exhaustible resources have a finite quantity, and will be depleted in case of overproduction, as a consequence of overconsumption.

Actual, potential, reserve & stock resources

Another way to classify natural resources is by splitting them into potential, actual reserve or stock resources. Potential resources are those that exist and are known of, but which are not being produced (yet). Actual resources are those that are at a further stage of development. They are currently actually being produced and used.Technology and costs are extremely relevant for production. If the costs of producing a resource are currently too high, but may be attractive in the future, then it is referred to as a reserve resource. Next, stock resources are those that have been identified, but cannot be used (yet) due to lack of technology. Time may bring along the required technological development in order to produce the resources at acceptable costs levels for usage and allocation.