A resource is any source or supply, man-made or natural, from which humans can benefit. There are many different resource classification systems. Resources can be classified based on their availability, development, basis of origin, or location. Resources are a relevant concept in a variety of fields, including economics, computing, biology, and ecology. In most fields, resources are discussed in terms of their rate of consumption, availability, and utility.
Natural resources are derived from our environment. They can be classified either by their source of origin, stage of development, or renewability. Natural resources are vital to both humans and the economy, because they contain all the materials humans need to live, and because all physical man-made resources are made from natural resources.
Classified by source of origin, natural resources are either biotic or abiotic. Biotic resources are derived from organic material, like plants and animals. This classification includes materials such as fossil fuels, which come from decayed organic matter. Resources that are non-living and non-organic are abiotic resources. This includes water, air, soil, metals, and all the minerals found in the Earth.
Natural resources are also classified by their stage of development. Actual resources are natural resources that humans have identified, measured, and are ready to utilize. Potential resources are resources that, while not yet ready to be utilized, have been identified and can be measured and used in the future. An example of a potential resource is the presence of minerals in a rock that haven’t yet been excavated.
A third classification for natural resources is based off of their renewability. Minerals and fossil fuels are classified as nonrenewable because the rate at which they form is slower than the rate at which humans utilize them. Renewable resources are able to be replenished, and are frequently available. Examples of renewable resources are sunlight and wind.
Most discussions surrounding natural resources center around the concepts of sustainability and conservation. This is because natural resources are both central to many world economies, and limited in quantity. Many governments have put policies and laws into place in an effort to manage the rate at which natural resources are used.
Human resources and capital resources are other commonly recognized resource types. Human resources are the people who provide work, or labor, in any given field. Human resources are also sometimes referred to as human capital. Capital resources are man-made products that can be used in the production or transport of other goods. Common capital resources are ships, roads, trains, buildings, and machinery.
Resources can also generally be classified based on ownership and availability. Individual resources, natural or otherwise, are owned by one individual. This can include land, houses, cars, and food. By contrast, community resources are resources that any member of a community can use. These include public parks, commons, playgrounds, libraries, and public roads and sidewalks. National resources are resources owned and used by the government, including the nation’s land, roads, railroads, canals, water, forests, wildlife, and minerals.