Distribution of Resources

Distribution of Resources

Resources are vital to the existence of people. Familiarize students with the concept of resource distribution and encourage them to think about how people interact with limited resources.


5 - 8


Biology, Earth Science, Geography, Physical Geography

Photo of a river.
Photograph courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Natural resources are materials people obtain from Earth that have economic value or are important for human life. Lumber, minerals, and even fossil fuels are three resources that serve people well. Resources are distributed throughout the world, though not always evenly, and some people have better access to resources than others.

Reindeer trudging across the snow in Kamchatka, Russia.
The Reindeer of Russia

The Yamal is an Arctic peninsula located in northwestern Siberia. Known for its reindeer herds and large reserves of natural gas, the region is the site of new natural gas development.

Have students learn more about how humans and animals compete for resources by looking at the Paths of Resilience map. This map shows the paths of reindeer herds and proposed natural gas developments in the Yamal region. Have students examine the map as a class and describe the features they notice on the map (such as summer pastures, lakes, and current and proposed developments). Emphasize that some of the developments on the map are not currently active, but are proposed for development in the future.

Then have students work in small groups to analyze the maps and identify the overlaps between the natural paths taken by reindeer and the proposed developments for natural gas facilities. Have students predict what problems might occur where reindeer herds and gas mining and transport overlap. How might this impact the Nenet reindeer herders? Task students with developing proposals that would solve these problems. Encourage students to seek a compromise between the Nenet herders and natural gas businesses, while also protecting reindeer populations. Students can share their proposals with the class to receive peer feedback.

A large ship sits off the side of an offshore oil platform
How Are Resources Distributed?

Resources are distributed in different ways and in different amounts throughout the world. Often the result of past geologic processes such as volcanic activity or tectonic movement, this unequal distribution means that various quantities of certain resources are only available to some people.

Help students understand the concept of unequal distribution by examining the following maps. The first map, Drilling for Offshore Oil, depicts oil resources throughout the world. Have students examine the map and answer the following questions: Where are most of the oil resources located in the world? What patterns in resource distribution do they notice? (Many of the resources are located near the coast or near the equator.) Who benefits from these resources and why? What potential problems can drilling for oil pose to nature?

Then have students examine the United States Uranium Resources Map. Ask students to consider the following questions as they view the map: In which part of the country are most of these resources located? What patterns do they notice? (Many of the resources are located near the coasts or in mountainous regions.) Who benefits from these resources and why? What potential problems can uranium mining pose to nature?

Next, have students review the two graphics Harsh Frontier and Contested Canyon. These graphics show how humans interact with two specific environments in a quest to obtain resources. In small groups, have students identify similarities in the conflict over extracting resources in each location. What evidence exists that the extraction of resources has harmed, or may harm the environment? To conclude, facilitate a debate about the types of activities that should be allowed in each location going forward. In general, how should humans address the overlap between needed resources and the environment?

Freshwater Availability Key Image
Resource Maps

A resource map is one type of map that is used to show the distribution of different resources in a region.

Help students understand the idea of a resource map by visiting the Freshwater Availability resources map. Have students examine the map and identify its purpose. Students should determine that the map depicts the varying amounts of fresh water available to people throughout the world. Then have students describe what type of conclusions can be drawn from such a map. For example, they might notice that fresh water is more available in South America than in Africa. Have students explain why this map might be useful for scientists.

Then have students conduct research about the resources in their own state or region. Students can create a resource map that shows crops, minerals, water, or other resources available to the people who live there. Instruct students to use symbols to represent the resources on the map and to include a map key. Tell students that they can include as many resources as they think would clearly and logically fit on the map. When they are finished, have students share their maps with other students. Ask: What types of organizations, agencies, businesses, or people might find these maps useful?

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

April 10, 2024

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