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Use of renewable resources


Renewable resources are part of the renewable natural stock and comprise those resources that have the potential for re-creation within a given period of time. Examples are biogenic resources such fish or timber but also air and water. Renewable resources provide food, material and ecosystem services (e.g. carbon sequestration or purification of air and water).

The exploitation of some renewable resources, e.g. certain fish stocks, exceeds their reproductive capacity (quantitative aspects) and may lead to the extinction of species. Other renewable resources are fundamentally altered by human action, e.g. primary forests are converted into tree plantations that provide much less ecosystem services (qualitative aspects).

Thus, the main principle for the sustainable management of renewable resources is to avoid over-exploitation (a level beyond which regeneration becomes impossible) and to maintain or strengthen the re-generability of eco-systems.
One potential way to describe interdependencies between the technosphere and the ecosphere is to analyse the physical flows of energy/matter, particularly from primary producers (green plants and other photosynthesizers) to sequential levels of consumer organisms in ecosystems (specifically, humans and their economies) and on the return flows of degraded energy and material (emissions, waste) back to the ecosystem.

The fundamental question is whether the ecosphere (incl. biophysical processes and its capacity to absorb emissions - ‘sink function’), is capable to sustain its general life support functions in the long run.

This text is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace any reference documents.

Guiding Question

Does the policy affect the use of renewable resources (fish, timber etc.)?

Does the policy lead unsustainable levels of consumption (exceed regeneration capacity?)

Relevant policies

The 2020 Flagship Initiative on Resource Efficiency aims to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth by increasing resource efficiency.
The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) puts in place a series of measures designed to reduce and eliminate over fishing. The ultimate goal is to reach a sustainable balance between the needs of the fishing sector and the available fish stocks. 
Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources aims at reducing the environmental impacts associated with resource use and to do so in a growing economy.


Further sources of data

Further sources of information

Eurostat Indicators

The following Eurostat Sustainable Development Indicators are relevant to address the key question:

  • Fish catches from stocks outside of 'safe biological limits'
  • Size of fishing fleet
  • Percentage of forest trees damaged by defoliation
  • Forest increment and felling
  • Sufficiency of sites designated under the EU Habitats directive
  • Common bird index

Other Official Indicators


Publications and applications

Content for this term

Title Type Updated date
Förster, Michael Expert 2014-03-05 09:39
Mari Jüssi Expert 2014-03-17 12:26