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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]

Contents

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 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. 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 (5.9 to 13.2 billion barrels) than previously estimated. Only up to 5.6 billion barrels 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 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]

Wetlands

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 arguement 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 percent of the losses since the 1970s have been caused by humans, especially by the conversion of wetlands to agricultural land. More than half (56 percent) 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.

Erosion

Erosion is the process in which the materials of the Earth's crust are worn and carried away by wind, water, and other natural forces. The destruction of forest (deforestation) and native grasses has allowed water and wind greater opportunity to erode the soil. Changes in river flow human activity have dramatically shifted the runoff patterns of water and the sediment load of rivers that deposit into lakes and oceans. Erosion has become a problem in much of the world in areas that are over farmed or where topsoil cannot be protected.

Agricultural lands are the main source of eroded soil. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), approximately 20 percent of the nation's land is set aside for cropland. Three-quarters of this land is actively used to grow crops for harvesting. The remainder is used for pasture or is idled for various reasons. Demands on the Earth to feed growing populations and changes in the Earth's landscape caused by human activities have speeded up soil erosion. Soil erosion has increased to the point where it far exceeds the natural formation of new soil, and experts consider the problem to be of epidemic proportions.

Notes

References

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