Resource depletion

Resource depletion

Resource depletion is an economic term referring to the exhaustion of raw materials within a region. Resources are commonly divided between renewable resources and non-renewable resources. (See also Mineral resource classification.) Use of either of these forms of resources beyond their rate of replacement is considered to be resource depletion.

Resource depletion is most commonly used in reference to the farming, fishing, mining, and fossil fuels.[1]


Causes of resource depletion

Minerals and oil

Materials removed from the Earth are needed to provide humans with food, clothing, and housing and to continually upgrade the standard of living. Some of the materials needed are renewable resources, such as agricultural and forestry products, while others are nonrenewable, such as minerals. The USGS reported in Materials Flow and Sustainability (1998) that the number of renewable resources is decreasing, meanwhile there is an increasing demand for nonrenewable resources. Since 1900 the use of construction materials such as stone, sand, and gravel, has soared. The large-scale exploitation of minerals began in the Industrial Revolution around 1760 in England and has grown rapidly ever since. Today’s economy is largely based on fossil fuels, minerals and oil. The value increases because of the large demand, but the supply is decreasing. This has resulted in more efforts to drill and search other territories. The environment is being abused and this depletion of resources is one way of showing the affects. Mining still pollutes the environment, only on a larger scale. The US government has produced the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 in order to regulate certain aspects of mining but it is truly up to the individual states to regulate it.

Oil in the Arctic

Oil has become one of the top resources used in America. Drilling for oil has become a major issue. America is more abundant in coal but the effects on the atmosphere are far worse than oil. Geologists consider northern Alaska to be the last, untouched oil field in North America. Some environmental experts are worried that oil and gas development will seriously harm the area. In 2002 the USGS assessed the NPRA and found a significantly greater supply of petroleum (5,900,000 barrels (940,000 m3) to 13,200,000,000 barrels (2.10×109 m3)) than previously estimated. Only up to 5,600,000,000 barrels (890,000,000 m3) of this petroleum are technically and economically recoverable at existing market prices. The USGS suspects that there may be as much as 83.2 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas in the same area. Transportation of this gas to markets would require a new pipeline. There is already a pipeline system in place for oil—the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), which lies between the NPRA and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The ANWR is a 19-million-acre (77,000 km2) area of wilderness along the Alaska-Canada border. It, too, is being considered for oil exploration, a move strongly opposed by environmentalists. The future of the refuge lies in the hands of the federal government. The administration of George H. W. Bush made drilling there a major foundation of the national energy policy. Under the Clinton administration oil and mineral development was prohibited within the wildlife refuge. In April 2002, following heated debate; the U.S. Senate killed a proposal by the administration of George W. Bush to let oil companies’ drill in ANWR. Republicans raised the issue again in the fall of 2003, citing the need for the nation to reduce its dependence on oil imported from the Middle East.[2]


Deforestation is the clearing of natural forests by logging or burning of trees and plants in a forested area.[3] As a result of deforestation, presently about one half of the forests that once covered the Earth have been destroyed.[4] It occurs for many different reasons, and it has several negative implications on the atmosphere and the quality of the land in and surrounding the forest.


One of the main causes of deforestation is clearing forests for agricultural reasons. As the population of developing areas, especially near rainforests, increases, the need for land for farming becomes more and more important.[5] For most people, a forest has no value when its resources aren’t being used, so the incentives to deforest these areas outweigh the incentives to preserve the forests. For this reason, the economic value of the forests is very important for developing worlds.[6]

Environmental impact

Because deforestation is so extensive, it has made several significant impacts on the environment, including carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, changing the water cycle, an increase in soil erosion, and a decrease in biodiversity. Deforestation is often cited as a cause of global warming. Because trees and plants remove carbon dioxide and emit oxygen into the atmosphere, the reduction of forests contribute to about 12% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.[7] One of the most pressing issues that deforestation creates is soil erosion. The removal of trees causes higher rates of erosion, increasing risks of landslides, which is a direct threat to many people living close to deforested areas. As forests get destroyed, so does the habitat for millions of animals. It is estimated that 80% of the world’s known biodiversity lives in the rainforests, and the destruction of these rainforests is accelerating extinction at an alarming rate.[8]

Controlling deforestation

Efforts to control deforestation must be taken on a global scale. Organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank have started to create programs like Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) that works especially with developing countries to use subsidies or other incentives to encourage citizens to use the forest in a more sustainable way.[9] In addition to making sure that emissions from deforestation are kept to a minimum, an effort to educate people on sustainability and helping them to focus on the long-term risks is key to the success of these programs.[10] Reforestation is also being encouraged in many countries in an attempt to repair the damage that deforestation has done.[11]


A wetland is a term used to describe areas that are often saturated by enough surface or groundwater to sustain vegetation that is usually adapted to saturated soil conditions, such as cattails, bulrushes, red maples, wild rice, blackberries, cranberries, and peat moss. Because some varieties of wetlands are rich in minerals and nutrients and provide many of the advantages of both land and water environments they contain diverse species and possibly even form a food chain. When human activities take away resources many species are affected. Many species act as an ecosystem. Years ago people assumed wetlands were useless so it was not a large concern when they were being dug up. Many people want to use them for developing homes etc. On the other side of the argument people believe the wetlands are a vital source for other life forms and a part of the life cycle.

Wetlands provide services for:

1) Food and habitat

2) Improving water quality

3) Commercial fishing

4) Floodwater reduction

5) Shoreline stabilization

6) Recreation

Some loss of wetlands resulted from natural causes such as erosion, sedimentation (the buildup of soil by the settling of fine particles over a long period of time), subsidence (the sinking of land because of diminishing underground water supplies), and a rise in the sea level. However, 95% of the losses since the 1970s have been caused by humans, especially by the conversion of wetlands to agricultural land. More than half (56%) the losses of coastal wetlands resulted from dredging for marinas, canals, port development, and, to some extent, from natural shoreline erosion. The conversion of wetlands causes the loss of natural pollutant sinks. The dramatic decline in wetlands globally suggests not only loss of habitat but also diminished water quality.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ “Deforestation.” Wikipedia.
  4. ^ “Global Deforestation". Global Change Curriculum. University of Michigan Global Change Program. January 4, 2006
  5. ^ Butler, Rhett A. "Impact of Population and Poverty on Rainforests". / A Place Out of Time: Tropical Rainforests and the Perils They Face. Retrieved May 13, 2009.
  6. ^ Pearce, David W (December 2001). "The Economic Value of Forest Ecosystems". Ecosystem Health, Vol. 7, no. 4. pp. 284–296.
  7. ^ G.R.van der Werf, D.C.Morton, R.S.DeFries, J.G.J.Olivier, P.S.Kasibhatla, R.B.Jackson, G.J.Collatz and J.T.Randerson, CO2 emissions from forest loss, Nature Geoscience, Volume 2 (November 2009) pp. 737-738
  8. ^ Do We Have Enough Forests? By Sten Nilsson
  9. ^ Copenhagen Accord of 18 December 2009". UNFCC. 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-28.
  10. ^ Diamond, Jared Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed; Viking Press 2004, pages 301-302
  11. ^ Jonathan A Foley, Ruth DeFries, Gregory P Asner, Carol Barford, et al. 2005 "Global Consequences of Land Use" Science 309:5734 570-574

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