Sustainable Natural Resources

The natural world provides resources, such as air, water and soil, that sustain life and support the biological resources on which we depend. However, demand for these resources from a growing global population, combined with global environmental changes, means that where there is a diminishing supply, competing resource needs will shape the quality and sustainability of our environment.

To extend the resources available to people, we need better knowledge of how natural resources can contribute to a sustainable economy, taking account of the environmental and social costs. Globally, society also needs to understand how exploiting resources could affect the environment, including the impact of their waste products, and how this can be managed so as to live within the Earth’s environmental limits.

The core resources that sustain life need to be safeguarded. Environmental science can provide solutions to protect and improve water and soil quality. These two resources are strongly linked which means that we need an integrated approach to research. The soil-water system has some natural capacity to reduce the amount of contaminants that flow from land into water, provided the system is not already overloaded with pollutants. Vegetation and soil can recycle waste products and also play an important role in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, thereby educing the climatic effect of increased carbon dioxide emissions.

EVO is enabling problems central to the sustainable use on natural resources to be addressed in an integrated approach. For example, our National Cloud Services examplar includes a linked hydrogeological and biogeochemical modelling framework that will enable national-scale nutriant fate models to be run across the web using a range of user-defined change scenarios. A central task to this exemplar is the development of a modelling system that enables researchers to better understand the natural and anthropogenic processes that link catchmnet forms with catchment functions.

Catchment form and function

The Sustainable Use of Natural Resources is one of seven key themes of work funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). More detailed information on the topic can be found on the NERC web site.