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Biological Resources

Biological resources can be found in macro- and micro-ecosystems around the world. The main categories are terrestrial and aquatic, although they branch out into various other forms. 

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Biological Resources

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Biological resources can be found in macro- and micro-ecosystems around the world. The main categories are terrestrial and aquatic, although they branch out into various other forms.

Humans tend to enrich existing habitats with allochthonous (meaning it comes from outside the original environment) organic matter, for example, fertilization with nitrogen and phosphorous.

The sustainable use of biological resources is essential to maintain the health and productivity of ecosystems and to ensure the continued provision of valuable services to humans.

Biological Resources Definition

Biological resources are the biologically derived renewable and non-renewable resources that ecosystems provide. They include certain minerals, plants, animals and all of their derivatives such as genetic information. However, some minerals are not biological resources, for example, gold. Biological resources are essential for human survival and well-being, as they can provide food, shelter provisions, clothing, fuel, etc.

The Importance of Biological Resources

Biological resources provide important ecosystem services such as air and water purification, pollination and pest control. Ecosystem services include regulating (e.g. water purification), cultural (e.g. recreational and spiritual benefits), provisional (e.g. food, water and resources) and supporting (e.g. water and nutrient cycles).

Biological resources are useful in many different ways.

Benefit of Biological ResourcesExplanation

Essential data about the natural world

This includes information about the diversity of plant and animal life, the structure of ecosystems, and the way that species interact with one another.

Biomarkers: histopathology-specific markers (cell diseases), blood chemistry analyses, population parameters. Bioindicators: earthworm population density and behaviour in relation to soil quality, great-crested newt for aquatic vegetation diversity, lichens for air pollution.

Used to combat climate change

Trees and other plants help to regulate the Earth's temperature by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.

Major source of food, fuel, medication, and other materials.

Many fruits and vegetables are grown using biological pesticides (baking soda, capsaicin, mint oil) rather than chemical pesticides, making them better for both human health and the environment.


Hiking, bird watching, fishing.

In short, biological resources are essential for both scientific research and human wellbeing.

Conservation of Biological Resources

Biological resources may be lost or their quality may be lowered, where pressure due to loss of habitat and resources causes increased competition between species.

Climate change, characterized by elements such as climate instability, warmer air and water, and increased water pH, affects biological resources in the following ways:

  • Organism death rates become higher than birth rates
  • The quality of life of organisms is reduced, while stress and infertility are increased.
  • Enzyme synthetisation rates are affected
  • There might be a build-up of waste products in the environment
  • The incidence of diseases increases

Anthropogenic activities can also impact biological resources, both positively and negatively.


Negatives include the over-exploitation of resources (e.g. timber, fur) and of ecologically sensitive areas (limescale extraction in parks of special scientific interest), or irresponsible tourism in ecologically sensitive areas (swimming in coral reef areas exposes the reef to sunscreen chemicals which contribute to bleaching). Other problems include overgrazing generating woody plant encroachment, the widespread use of pesticides such as nicotinoids and neonicotinoids, chemical runoff from industry, agriculture and households.


Anthropogenic activities with positive impacts on biological resources include the improvement of biological resource quality and yield, for example of essential crops. The recycling of raw materials such as wood pulp saves on materials. The conversion of wastes to food. Reducing food waste can be achieved by turning wasted food into mulch, compost, or feed for anaerobic digesters.

List of Biological Resources

Some key considerations for compiling a list of biological resources include:

  • The geographical location of the resource.
  • The species or taxonomic group to which the resource belongs.
  • The physical characteristics of the resource.
  • The chemical composition of the resource.
  • The biological function of the resource.

The ecological condition of all biological resources can be improved through: investing funds in conservation and research, biological control of invasive species, habitat restoration following removal or destruction, raising public awareness and education.

Biological Resources of Biodiversity

Biological resources are the materials derived from living organisms that can be used to benefit humans. These resources include food, fuel, fiber, medicines and ecological services. We will go into more detail below.


Terrestrial biological resources will have a tendency to be affected by similar anthropogenic factors and display similar degradation patterns, depending on climatic zones. Let's have a look below at what defines them.

Forest Biological Resources

Terrestrial forest resources are those that are found on land. They can include both renewable and nonrenewable resources. Trees are terrestrial forest resources, from which fruits, timber, sap and wood can be obtained. Other terrestrial forest resources include minerals, fossil fuels, and fresh water.

Terrestrial forest resources also form and exist in desert ecosystems, near tundras, around the equator, etc.

Their main recognisable feature is the presence and density of trees. Each country has its own definition of woodland or forest.

Terrestrial forest resources play an important role in human societies, providing fuel, building materials, foraging, shelter, and other essential goods and services.

Effects of using forest resources:

  • Promoting the formation of open land ecosystems (prairies, meadows, etc.)
  • Loss of moisture and shade
  • Soil erosion
  • Loss of species
  • Release of carbon dioxide
  • Economic gains
  • Improved vehicle accessibility and travel options
  • The discovery of novel resources
  • Increased water turbidity

Forestry activities with recognised environmental impact:

  • Deforestation
  • Monocultures
  • Non-native large-scale plantations
  • Raising fences

Forestry resources improvement techniques:

  • Selective logging
  • Mixed-age/species plantations
  • Forest fragmentation prevention

Agricultural Biological Resources:

Agricultural resources are defined as those natural resources that are necessary for the production of agricultural goods.

Agricultural biological resources are represented by raw materials for food (e.g. barley Hordeum vulgare), fuel (ethanol from sugarcane Saccharum officinarum), or clothing (linen fibres from linseeds Linum usitatissimum).

The most common type of agricultural practice worldwide is intensive subsistence agriculture.

For this, the land itself must be able to support the growth of crops or the grazing of animals, and it must have the necessary nutrients to nourish them. In addition, agricultural land must have access to fresh water for irrigation, as well as a source of labour to tend to the crops and animals. The conservation and management of agricultural resources are essential to ensuring a stable food supply.

Agriculture can be practised in all physical environments/land formations, but typically requires flat areas of land, such as plains and grasslands, that require little conversion.

Technological and other anthropogenic factors influencing agroecosystems include:

  • The overuse of water resources for irrigation
  • Promotion of pests due to monoculture tendencies
  • Loss of soil fertility due to a lack of rotational crops
  • Raising fences

Agroecosystems are sustained by elements such as:

Improvement techniques:

  • Reduction in ecologically toxic agrochemical use
  • Controlled burning/coppicing/grazing
  • Management of successional habitats
  • Hedgerow creation

Environmental impacts of agriculture:

  • Water- and air-mediated spray drift from pesticides used on agricultural sites
  • Spread of fires
  • Engineered genes spread


Aquatic biological resources are living aquatic organisms that are used for various purposes, including food, medicine and recreation. These resources can be harvested from both freshwater and saltwater environments. Aquatic animals such as fish, crabs, and shrimp are some of the most commonly harvested aquatic biological resources. Algae, such as seaweed and kelp, are also important aquatic biological resources.

Aquatic environments include freshwater, saltwater and brackish waters (e.g. in estuaries).

General considerations are needed, especially by allowing natural improvements to take place within water ecosystems, which are known to be very dynamic.

Freshwater Biological Resources

Includes: Animal (trout), vegetal (papyrus reed plant, a freshwater aquatic flowering plant, was used to produce writing materials), bacterial (e.g. Arthrospira platensis cyanobacteria "spirulina" used for health reasons).

Features: Rivers, lakes, ponds, underground systems, oases, and even the dendrotelmata (water-filled tree holes).

Methods to obtain freshwater biological resources: fishing, aquaculture, foraging, etc.

Heavily influenced by: agroecosystems, industry, boat transportation

How they can be improved: allowing room for river floodplains, removal of canalized routes, removal of high embankments as opposed to slowly sloping ones.

Environmental impacts of aquaculture: polluting or cutting off water resources for native species like the brown trout Salmo trutta in the UK, Atlantic salmon Salmo salar spread of external parasites to wild species.

Saltwater Biological Resources

Encompasses: Animal (e.g. European squid Loligo vulgaris), vegetal (e.g. Laminariaceae family of seaweed, "kelp").

Special uses: Food, shelter, pharmacology (e.g. Atlantic horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus blood harvesting)

Environmental impacts of saltwater aquaculture: loss of marshes and coastal areas which are among the most biodiverse on Earth, accumulation of farm waste on the sea bottom, antibiotic usage, etc.

Natural processes that influence aquatic biological resources include bank or coastline erosion, floodplain flooding, change of river tributaries or streamflow and migration of aquatic animals. Human activities such as overfishing, pollution, underwater sound pollution and house building all can interfere with the formation and provision of aquatic biological resources.

Measures that can prevent the loss of biological aquatic resources while still enabling human activities include:

  • Suspended or raised houses built above predicted flood water levels
  • Rotational, pharmaceuticals-free aquaculture, through the use of biological pest removers (e.g. ducks and geese in rice paddies, Ciclopterus lumpus as a parasite-control for Salmo salar, food waste-consuming fish like trout or carp Cyprinus carpio in streams that pass by or through households, etc.)
  • Switching to renewable energy engines as opposed to fossil fuels, which often leak into waterways.

The European eel Anguilla anguilla, historically used in the British cuisine, has suffered a marked population decline worldwide, as well as in the Thames River. They are currently affected by the persistence of pollutants such as euphoriant drugs excreted by humans, dioxins from herbicides, and plastic chemicals from industrial processes.

Assessment Methods of Biological Resources

Biological resources or activities with impacts on biological resources can be assessed through a variety of human-made systems that aid in understanding gains and losses when working with the environment. Working examples include LCAs (Life-cycle Assessments), which quantify ecological impacts and can be integrated into Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), which report changes in the carbon balance, landscape, ecology, etc. of an area where activities or construction work are carried out.

Direct ways to quantity the efficiency of biomass transfer between different organisms can be done through the use of QBS as soil biological quality index, CO2e measurements, or measurements of the quantity of dissolved oxygen.

Predictive assessments of biological resources include estimating the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), estimating the maximum reproductive capacity of a population, and calculating probable population density.

You have now learned quite a bit more about biological resources! There is a lot of information in this article, but remember, we have lots more articles explaining the various sub-topics we have covered today.

Biological Resources - Key takeaways

  • Everything that is biologically derived makes up the biological resources, including the valuable genetic material of living things.
  • One surprising benefit of protecting biological resources is offering the option of resource choice to future generations.
  • Biomedical sciences, the study of climate change, and recreational parks all have in common the need for good biological resources to keep evolving.
  • Overexploitation and pollution are common anthropogenic themes that affect biological resources, regardless of their type.
  • Agricultural, forestry and aquatic biological resources can be considered the most important for the human species.

Frequently Asked Questions about Biological Resources

Biological resources are the biologically derived renewable and non-renewable resources that ecosystems provide.

The components of biological resources are their genes, fur, shells, bark, etc. anything that an organism can be used for in the present or in the future (their potential).

Some examples of biological resources are agricultural biological resources like barley or linseed, aquatic such as brown trout and eels, etc.

Water is not a biological resource.

The importance of biological resources to humans encompasses food, shelter, clothing, fuel, research, etc.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

These forests experience low precipitation and extreme seasonal temperature differences.

High temperatures result in high energy availability. True or false?

How much of the world's oxygen does the Amazon Rainforest produce?


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