Conservation, sustainable use and protection of natural resources including plants, animals, mineral deposits, soils, clean water, clean air, and fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Natural resources are grouped into two categories, renewable and nonrenewable. A renewable resource is one that may be replaced over time by natural processes, such as fish populations or natural vegetation, or is inexhaustible, such as solar energy. The goal of renewable resource conservation is to ensure that such resources are not consumed faster than they are replaced. Nonrenewable resources are those in limited supply that cannot be replaced or can be replaced only over extremely long periods of time.
resources include fossil fuels and mineral deposits, such as iron ore and gold
ore. Conservation activities for nonrenewable resources focus on maintaining an
adequate supply of these resources well into the future.
Natural resources are conserved for their biological, economic, and recreational values, as well as their natural beauty and importance to local cultures. For example, tropical rain forests are protected for their important role in both global ecology and the economic livelihood of the local culture; a coral reef may be protected for its recreational value for scuba divers; and a scenic river may be protected for its natural beauty.
Conservation conflicts arise when natural-resource shortages develop in the face of steadily increasing demands from a growing human population. Controversy frequently surrounds how a resource should be used, or allocated, and for whom. For example, a river may supply water for agricultural irrigation, habitat for fish, and water-generated electricity for a factory. Farmers, fishers, and industry leaders vie for unrestricted access to this river, but such freedom could destroy the resource, and conservation methods are necessary to protect the river for future use.