A resource is a source or supply from which benefit is produced. Typically resources are materials, services, staff, or other assets that are transformed to produce benefit and in the process may be consumed or made unavailable. Benefits of resource utilization may include increased wealth, meeting needs or wants, proper functioning of a system, or enhanced well being. From a human perspective a natural resource is anything obtained from the environment to satisfy human needs and wants. From a broader biological or ecological perspective a resource satisfies the needs of a living organism (see biological resource).
The concept of resources has been applied in diverse realms, including with respect to economics, biology, computer science, land management, and human resources, and is linked to the concepts of competition, sustainability, conservation, and stewardship. In application within human society, commercial or non-commercial factors require resource allocation through resource management.
Resources have three main characteristics: utility, limited availability, and potential for depletion or consumption. Resources have been variously categorized as biotic versus abiotic, renewable versus non-renewable, and potential versus actual, along with more elaborate classifications.
In biology and ecology a resource is defined as a substance or object required by a living organism for normal growth, maintenance, and reproduction (see biological resource). Resources, such as food, water, or nesting sites, can be consumed by an organism and, as a result, become unavailable to other organisms. For animals key resources include food, water, and territory. For plants key resources include sunshine, nutrients, water, and a place to grow.
Economic versus biological resources
There are three fundamental differences between economic versus ecological views: 1) the economic resource definition is human-centered (anthropocentric) and the ecological resource definition is nature-centered (biocentric or ecocentric); 2) the economic view includes desire along with necessity, whereas the biological view is about basic biological needs; and 3) economic systems are based on markets of currency exchanged for goods and services, whereas biological systems are based on natural processes of growth, maintenance, and reproduction.
A computer resource is any physical or virtual component of limited availability within a computer or information management system. Computer resources include means for input, processing, output, communication, and storage.
Land or natural resources
Natural resources are derived from the environment. Many natural resources are essential for human survival, while others are used for satisfying human desire. Conservation is the management of natural resources with the goal of sustainability. Natural resources may be further classified in different ways.
Resources can be categorized on the basis of origin:
- Abiotic resources comprise non-living things (e.g., land, water, air and minerals such as gold, iron, copper, silver).
- Biotic resources are obtained from the biosphere. Forests and their products, animals, birds and their products, fish and other marine organisms are important examples. Minerals such as coal and petroleum are sometimes included in this category because they were formed from fossilized organic matter, though over long periods of time.
Natural resources are also categorized based on the stage of development:
- Potential Resources are known to exist and may be used in the future. For example, petroleum may exist in many parts of India and Kuwait that have sedimentary rocks, but until the time it is actually drilled out and put into use, it remains a potential resource.
- Actual resources are those that have been surveyed, their quantity and quality determined, and are being used in present times. For example, petroleum and natural gas is actively being obtained from the Mumbai High Fields. The development of an actual resource, such as wood processing depends upon the technology available and the cost involved. That part of the actual resource that can be developed profitably with available technology is called a reserve resource, while that part that can not be developed profitably because of lack of technology is called a stock resource.
Natural resources can be categorized on the basis of renewability:
- Non-renewable Resources are formed over very long geological periods. Minerals and fossils are included in this category. Since their rate of formation is extremely slow, they cannot be replenished, once they are depleted. Out of these, the metallic minerals can be re-used by recycling them, but coal and petroleum cannot be recycled.
- Renewable resources, such as forests and fisheries, can be replenished or reproduced relatively quickly. The highest rate at which a resource can be used sustainably is the sustainable yield. Some resources, like sunlight, air, and wind, are called perpetual resources because they are available continuously, though at a limited rate. Their quantity is not affected by human consumption. Many renewable resources can be depleted by human use, but may also be replenished, thus maintaining a flow. Some of these, like agricultural crops, take a short time for renewal; others, like water, take a comparatively longer time, while still others, like forests, take even longer.
Dependent upon the speed and quantity of consumption, overconsumption can lead to depletion or total and everlasting destruction of a resource. Important examples are agricultural areas, fish and other animals, forests, healthy water and soil, cultivated and natural landscapes. Such conditionally renewable resources are sometimes classified as a third kind of resource, or as a subtype of renewable resources. Conditionally renewable resources are presently subject to excess human consumption and the only sustainable long term use of such resources is within the so-called zero ecological footprint, wherein human use less than the Earth's ecological capacity to regenerate.
Natural resources are also categorized based on distribution:
- Ubiquitous Resources are found everywhere (e.g., air, light, water).
- Localized Resources are found only in certain parts of the world (e.g., copper and iron ore, geothermal power).
On the basis of ownership, resources can be classified as individual, community, national, and international.
In economics a resource is defined as a service, or other asset used to produce goods and services that meets human needs and wants. Economics itself has been defined as the study of how society manages its scarce resources. Classical economics recognizes three categories of resources: land, labor, and capital. Land includes all natural resources and is viewed as both the site of production and the source of raw materials. Labor or human resources consists of human effort provided in the creation of products, paid in wage. Capital consists of human-made goods or means of production (machinery, buildings, and other infrastructure) used in the production of other goods and services, paid in interest.
Labor or human resources
Human beings, through the labor they provide and the organizations they staff, are also considered to be resources. The term human resources can also be defined as the skills, energies, talents, abilities and knowledge that are used for the production of goods or the rendering of services.
Capital or infrastructure
In economics, capital refers to already-produced durable goods used in production of goods or services. As resources, capital goods may or may not be significantly consumed, though they may depreciate in the production process and they are typically of limited capacity or unavailable for use by others.
Tangible versus intangible resources
Whereas, tangible resources such as equipment have actual physical existence, intangible resources such as corporate images, brands and patents, and other intellectual property exist in abstraction.
Generally the economic value of a resource is controlled by supply and demand. Some view this as a narrow perspective on resources because there are many intangibles that cannot be measured in money. Natural resources such as forests and mountains have aesthetic value. Resources also have an ethical value.
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Resource use and sustainable development
Typically resources cannot be consumed in their original form, but rather through resource development they must be processed into more usable commodities. With increasing population, the demand for resources is increasing. There are marked differences in resource distribution and associated economic inequality between regions or countries, with developed countries using more natural resources than developing countries. Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use, that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment.
Various problems relate to the usage of resources:
Various benefits can result from the wise usage of resources:
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