Frequently Asked Questions

Other sources such as timber, water, animal populations, and fertile soil, renew themselves over months, years, or decades. These types of renewable resources may be used at sustainable rates, but they may become depleted if we consume them faster than they are replenished. Nonrenewable natural resources, such as minerals and fossil fuels, are in finite supply and are formed far more slowly than we use them.

Once we deplete a nonrenewable resource, it is no longer available. We rely on ecosystem services If we think of natural resources as “goods” produced by nature, then we soon realize that Earth’s natural systems also provide “services” on which we depend. Our planet’s ecological systems purify air and water, cycle nutrients, regulate climate, pollinate plants, and recycle our waste. Such essential services are commonly called ecosystem services.

Ecosystem services arise from the normal functioning of natural systems and are not meant for our benefit, yet we could not survive without them. The ways that ecosystem services support our lives and civilization are countless and profound. Just as we may deplete natural resources, we may degrade ecosystem services.


– for example, we destroy habitat or generate pollution. In recent years, our depletion of nature’s goods and our disruption of nature’s services have intensified, driven by rising resource consumption and a human population that grows larger every day.