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Natural Resources Notes from video: Types of Natural Resources ____________________________________________________________________ Defining Natural Resources Natural resources are materials that exist in nature that have material economic value. Forests, fresh water and mineral deposits are examples of natural resources. Natural resources are used to make food and fuel, and are used as materials in the production of finished goods. The economic value of natural resources changes over time. In the early 1900s coal was in high demand. Many industries and households used coal for heat and energy. As gas and oil became more popular, the demand for coal diminished until it was practically worthless. Many coal mines were closed because there was very little need for it. In recent years, the demand for coal has increased as large farms and smaller industries are seeing coal as a competitive alternative to heating with electricity or gas. Renewable Resources Natural resources can be divided into two groups. Renewable resources are resources that can be used and replaced. They include plants and animals, which reproduce and thus replace themselves. Most renewable resources cannot be stored for future use. Water, for example, is a renewable resource that can be used but cannot effectively be stored for a long period of time. Renewable resources often are living organisms and interact with one another. As a result, the use of one such resource affects many other renewable resources. If water is polluted while it is being used, that pollution finds its way into other renewable resources and contaminates them as well. Non-renewable Resources Non-renewable resources cannot be replaced after they are used. They often take many years to form. After they are extracted from the earth, they can be stored for a considerable length of time. Most non-renewable resources are not living organisms so the extraction and use of one resource will not impact other non-renewable resources. For example, iron is a non-renewable resource. It takes many years and geological processes for iron to form. Once it is mined, it can be refined and then stored for some time. The extraction of the iron from the earth’s crust has no impact on the petroleum reserves. There are impacts to the environment, but that is another lesson later on. Technology and research has made it possible to recycle many non-renewable resources. As a result, non-renewable resources are being used more than once in its life.