Variations in Renewable & Non-Renewable

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How natural resources are managed depends primarily on whether the resource is renewable or non-renewable. Renewable resources can be replaced and are therefore managed to maximize their availability. Non-renewable resources, on the other hand, require controlled harvest, since these resources cannot be replace at a rate comparable to their consumption.

Replacement Time

The primary difference between renewable and non-renewable resources is the relative replacement time. For example, wood harvested from forests to manufacture paper products is considered a renewable resource. The time needed to replace the trees harvested is a function of the time it takes for a tree to grow to a harvestable size. Birch trees, for example, reach maturity at 20 years, but will be harvested before that for production. Coal, on the other hand, takes millions of years to develop. Since it is not immediately replaceable, it is considered a non-renewable resource.

Renewable Resources

Plants and crops are examples of renewable resources. After harvest, new crops can be planted to keep up with the rate of human consumption. Even if the entire plant is taken, the time to replant and harvest again is quick. Another example is meat production. New livestock can be raised in a relatively short period of time to ensure a continued supply. Non-

Renewable Resources

In the case of non-renewable resources, the rate of human consumption exceeds the amount of time needed to renew the resource. Fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal and petroleum have a finite supply. Over time, these resources can be depleted and not replaced. Oftentimes, the conditions that created the non-renewable resource simply do not exist. Fossil fuels formed in the sediment of oceans and rivers. Other times, they formed in waterlogged environments such as peat bogs. The United States has lost over 50 percent of its wetlands in the last 200 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, making the opportunities for renewing fossil fuels limited.

Means of Renewing Resources

A resource is said to be renewable if it can be replaced. One way to replace resources is through sound land management. Land management is used to replace crops to ensure a continued supply. The resource does not run out. Natural ecological cycles can also replace resources. For example, if trees are harvested from a forest, over time the trees will be replaced through ecological succession. Existing trees will reproduce, casting seeds on the forest floor, some of which will replace the missing trees.

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