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Biology 2014-2015

Sec. 6-2 Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources
SWS Biology
SWS Life Science

Classifying Resources

       Environmental goods and services may be classified as either renewable or nonrenewable.

       A renewable resource can regenerate if it is alive, or can be replenished by biochemical cycles if they are nonliving.

       A tree is an example of a renewable resource, because a new tree can grow in place of an old tree that dies or is cut down.

       A renewable resource is not necessarily unlimited.

       Fresh water can easily become limited by drought or overuse.

       A nonrenewable resource is one that cannot be replenished by natural processes.

       Fossil fuels-coal, oil, and natural gas are nonrenewable resources.  When they are depleted, they are gone forever.


Sustainable Development

       Sustainable development is a way of using natural resources without depleting them, and providing for human needs without causing long-term environmental harm.

       Human activities can affect the quality and supply of renewable resources such as land, forests, fisheries, air, and fresh water.

       Sustainable strategies must enable people to live comfortably and improve their situation.

       The use of insects to control insect pests is one such strategy.  This may help farmers reduce the use of pesticides.


Land Resources

       Land is a resource that provides space for human communities and raw materials for industry.

       Land also includes the soils in which crops are grown.

       The most fertile soil is in the uppermost layer called topsoil.

       Such soil is produced by long-term interactions between the soil and plants growing in it.

       Plowing the land removes the roots that hold the soil in place.

       Soil erosion is the wearing away of surface soil by water and wind.

       The Midwest loses roughly 47 metric tons of topsoil per hectare every year!

       In dry climates, a combination of farming, overgrazing, and drought has turned once productive areas into deserts a process called desertification.

       There are a variety of sustainable-development practices that guard against these problems.

       Contour plowing, in which fields are plowed across the slope of the land to reduce erosion.

       Leaving the stems and roots of the previous year’s crop in place to help hold the soil.

       Planting a field with rye rather than leaving it unprotected from erosion.


Forest Resources

       Forests have been called the “lungs of the Earth” because they remove carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

       Forests provide:

       Wood for homes, paper, fuel

       Store nutrients

       Provide habitats and food for organisms

       Moderate climate

       Limit soil erosion

       Protect freshwater supplies


       Worldwide, about half of the area originally covered by forests and woodlands has been cleared.

       Only about one-fifth of the world’s original old-growth forests remain.

       Deforestation or the loss of forests can lead to severe erosion as soil is exposed to heavy rains.

       Erosion can wash away nutrients in the topsoil.

       Grazing or plowing after deforestation can change local soils and microclimates that may prevent regrowth of trees.

       There are a variety of sustainable-development strategies for forest management:

       Mature trees are harvested selectively to promote growth of younger trees and promote the forest ecosystem.

       Foresters plant, manage, harvest, and replant tree farms.

       Tree geneticists are also breeding new, faster-growing tree varieties that produce high quality wood.


Fishery Resources

       Fishes and other animals that live in water are a valuable source of food for humanity.



       Overfishing, or harvesting fish faster than they can be replaced by reproduction, greatly reduced the amount of fish in parts of the world’s ocean.

       From 1950-1990, the world fish catch grew from 19 million tons to more than 90 million tons.

       By the early 1990’s, populations of cod and haddock had dropped so low that researchers thought these fish might disappear.

       The declining fish populations are an example of the “tragedy of commons”.

       “Tragedy of commons” is when people from several countries take advantage of a resource but no one takes responsibility for maintaining it.




Sustainable Development

       Because of the declining fisheries, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service created guidelines for United States commercial fishing.

       The guideline specified how many fish, and of what size, could be caught in various parts of the oceans.

       The regulations are helping fish populations to recover.

       Unfortunately, it caused loss of jobs in the short term, but will protect the fishing industry for the future.



       Aquaculture is the raising of aquatic animals for human consumption.

       It also helps to sustain fish resources.

       If it is not managed properly, aquaculture can pollute water and damage aquatic ecosystems.


Air Resources

       Air is a resource that affects people’s health and it’s quality remains a challenge for modern society.

       Smog is a mixture of chemicals that occurs as a gray-brown haze in the atmosphere.

       Smog is due to automobile exhaust and industrial emissions.

       Smog is considered a pollutant.

       A pollutant is a harmful material that can enter the biosphere through land, air, or water.

       The burning of fossil fuels can release pollutants into the atmosphere.

       Toxic chemicals are nitrates, sulfates, and particulates which are microscopic particles of ash and dust.

       Most industries have to control their emissions from factory smokestacks.

       Strict automobile emission standards and clean-air regulations have greatly improved air quality in U.S. cities.

       The release of nitrogen and sulfur compounds into the atmosphere when combined with water vapor form strong acids.

       When acid rain falls, it can kill plants and change the chemistry of soils and standing-water ecosystems.


Freshwater Resources

       Americans use billions of liters of freshwater daily for drinking and washing to watering crops and making steel.

       Pollution threatens water supplies in several ways.

       Improperly discarded chemicals can enter streams and rivers.

       Waste discarded on land can seep through soil and enter groundwater.

       Domestic sewage (sinks and toilets) which contain nitrogen can encourage growth of algae and bacteria in aquatic habitats.

       Sewage containing microorganisms can spread disease among humans and animals.

       One way of ensuring the sustainable use of water resources is to protect the natural systems involved in the water cycle.

       Wetlands help to purify the water passing through them.  Densely growing plants filter certain pollutants out of the water.

       Forests and other vegetation help to purify the water that seeps into the ground.

       Water conservation is becoming an increasingly important aspect of sustainable development.

       More than three quarters of all water consumed is used in agriculture.

       An example of conservation would be to use drip irrigation which delivers water directly to plant roots.  This reduces the amount of water lost through evaporation.