Natural Resources

Natural Resources

What is the meaning of Natural Resources?

Natural resources comprise diverse characteristics inclusive of water, land, animals, ecosystems, plants or minerals. We need these resources to ensure humankind survives but also to support our global or local economies. Each country consists of natural resources management plans that permit them to protect these environmental landscapes we have. Each natural resource gets broken down into more detailed aspects, for example, abiotic or biotic environmental assets.

These assets form part of the most important ecological cycle that requires constant management. The process aims to manage natural resources to a sustainable level. The natural resources significantly impact on a country’s economy. Each economy links directly to a country’s natural resources and the impacts thereof.  These impacts comprise of the ability to impact on the natural resources significantly. It, therefore, stays critical to managing them using strict guidelines.

Further to the above the following key natural resources normally form part of a country’s natural resources list. It receives protection from assigned government departments and different role players in the conservation field. Some of these natural resources receive protection according to the relevant environmental management legislations. 

Examples of natural resources include the following:

  • Minerals for example gold, petroleum, gas, sand, coal and iron ore.
  • Marine resources for example fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Land and river ecosystems.
  • Underground water that provides the lifelines we need. 
  • Soil that focuses especially on the success of your crop productions.
  • Biodiversity and protected areas, for example, conserved plant or animal species.
  • Atmosphere and air. 
  • Forestry and logging.

Classification of Natural Resources

Natural resources consist of different attributes, sensitivities, and characters that require detailed management approaches. To allow for proper natural resources management to happen, the first step involves a clear classification and description methodology. 

Each natural resource receives a different type of legal protection from the relevant countries. To reach a level where we can recognize the meaning of natural resources, it becomes important to understand the different attributes. Natural resources consist of different methods of exploitation, extraction methods or technologies used. 

Natural resources aligned with revenue flows tend to receive higher classifications than the lesser important ones. Meaning if your resources align directly with the economy’s health, it impacts on the importance thereof. Especially resources that play a key role during trade agreements receive an elevated classification. It does not mean that the other natural resources require less management. The aim involves the balancing of all resources that plays a different role. 

Historically natural resources resulted in countries experiencing serious conflict or war because of the ownership thereof. Even today countries still experience constant disagreements about fishing territories for example.

Natural resources also receive classifications according to their renewability. The table below provides an indication of renewable and non-renewable resources:

CropsEarth minerals
WaterThe crust for example metamorphic rocks

Besides the renewability of natural resources, it also receives classification according to the possibility of selling them illegally. For example, gemstones of fossils sometimes form part of illegal trade in different country borders. The other concept that plays a role to define the importance of a natural resource relates to the ability of these materials to be transported. For example, diamonds can easily be moved to different areas. Other natural resources for example gas and oil may create high levels of destruction during the set-up of the pipelines. 

All the factors mentioned above increases or decreases the value of each country’s natural resources. To ensure the management of these attributes each country aims to sustainably manage their resources.

Natural Resources and Sustainability

Continuously we experience threats to our natural resources as a result of pollution. Pollution comes in the form of different formats for example:

  • Air pollution
  • Ground and surface pollution
  • Soil pollution
  • Noise pollution
  • Radioactive contamination

The impacts on natural resources create significant concerns and prevent us from living sustainably. Pollution normally happens when diverse industries impact the earth’s resources. For example as a result of an oil spill, chemicals spill in water resources, deforestation, and increase of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide or ozone in the earth’s atmosphere.

The increased impacts on natural resources subsequently created different catastrophic events for example:

  • Continuous floods
  • Droughts
  • Fires
  • Food shortages

To allow for the management of diverse natural resources the global approach involves the implementation of a sustainable development management approach. Natural resources form a critical part of the administration method and subsequently, each country comprises different standards. These benchmarks allow the government authorities to manage them according to the classification discussed earlier on. Some of these examples include:

  • Climate change standards
  • Biodiversity and ecosystem standards
  • Pollution standards
  • Assessment and Management of Environmental Risks and Impacts 

Each country, company, entity or individual carries the responsibility to look after the natural resources available in their different environments. The management of resources also relies on the individual’s commitment to safe keep their immediate environment. Some example of sustainable natural resources management include the following:

  • Corporate entities commit to aligning their industry standards with specification set-out by the different government authorities. These standards normally occur in formal sustainable development management plans aligned with the country’s legislative conditions.
  • Small businesses develop their sustainable development plans suitable for a smaller and more local environment. It explains the efforts they aim to invest in when looking after the natural resources that normally appear in their business environment.
  • On an individual basis, people receive opportunities to join community groups who aim to clean-up the close-by rivers, parks, and forests for example.

Natural Resources Management Plans

Governments require the execution of environmental impact assessment or natural resources management plans to collect the relevant data they need. The data becomes significant to ensure the proper management of the available resources. These plans form part of each country or entity’s philosophy to protect the environment where they operate.

These plans generally consist of specific reporting standards and align with the country’s natural resources management legislation. It allows the government authorities to make the necessary decisions to allow developments to proceed or not. 

These environmental impact assessments require you to determine the possible outcome if you intend to develop in a specific area. For example, if you aim to develop a shopping center, the government requires some understanding of the possible impacts. The objective of these environmental impact assessments allows you to understand the types of resources available in your area. It also allows you to understand the possible risks as a result of specific developments. 

Frequently Asked Questions

The concept related to Natural Resources stays a difficult concept and sometimes complex to grasp.  The following frequently asked questions may add some clarity to the discussion point:

What is the meaning of natural resources? 

Natural resources include water, fish, biodiversity, wildlife, air, soil and groundwater resources. All resources form part of a sustainable environment. If one becomes impacted the others will suffer as well. 

What is the meaning of natural resources sustainability? 

The meaning of natural resources sustainability relates to the ability of an entity or person to use the current environment without impacting on the ability of future generations to make use of the resource. 

What is a natural resources management plan?  

A natural resources management plan provides a detailed document explaining the method in which these attributes require management. The management plan guides the entity or party who use natural resources for a variety of purposes. The plan normally includes your objectives, location, resource assessment, recommendations, schedule, and additional information.  

What is Natural Resources / Environmental Impact Assessment? 

An Environmental Impact Assessment Plan normally happens before the execution of a building project for example. It allows the team to make a combined decision regarding the project details and the expected impacts. These impacts play a significant role in the sustainability of the environment. 


  • European Investment Bank, 2014, EBRD Environmental and Social Risk Categorisation List – Revised 2014
  • European Investment Bank, 2017, Environmental and Social Sustainability Management, Introduction – Environmental and Social Impacts, Risks and Opportunities for Financial Intermediaries,  PP 1 – 39. 
  • Lujala, P., 2003, Classification of Natural Resources, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, PP. 1-22.

Cite/Link to This Article

  • "Natural Resources". Geography Revision. Accessed on January 26, 2021.

  • "Natural Resources". Geography Revision, Accessed 26 January, 2021.

  • Natural Resources. Geography Revision. Retrieved from