U.S. Geological Survey: Natural Gas Fracking Is Destroying Pennsylvania ForestsOct 24th, 2012 | By fjgallagher | Category: Fracking, Lead Articles
Natural gas drilling activity is destroying thousands of acres of forest in Pennsylvania, according to a recent report issued by the U.S. Geological Survey.
“This type of extensive and long-term habitat conversion has a greater impact on natural ecosystems than activities such as logging or agriculture, given the great dissimilarity between gas-well pad infrastructure and adjacent natural areas and the low probability that the disturbed land will revert back to a natural state in the near future,” the U.S.G.S. report states.
Much of the damage can be traced to the consequences of hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking,” as it is called in the parlance of our time — although the extraction of coal-bed methane has also contributed to the ongoing environmental degredation, the report notes.
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Much of the damage, the report states, stems from fragmentation of the existing forest, where a habitat is divided by roads, drilling pads, pipelines and other infrastructure development associated with fracking into smaller, less functional areas.
From the U.S.G.S. report:
Although many human and natural activities result in habitat fragmentation, gas exploration and development activity can be extreme in their effect on the landscape. Numerous secondary roads and pipeline networks crisscross and subdivide habitat structure. Landscape disturbance associated with shale-gas development infrastructure directly alters habitat through loss, fragmentation, and edge effects, which in turn alters the flora and fauna dependent on that habitat. The fragmentation of habitat is expected to amplify the problem of total habitat area reduction for wildlife species, as well as contribute towards habitat degradation.
The picture, below, (Figure 2 from the U.S.G.S. report) illustrates the effect that fragmentation has on a forest.
The bottom line, according to the report: natural gas drilling has profoundly altered the forest in Pennsylvania.
From the U.S.G.S. report:
The overall landscape effects of natural gas development have been substantial. (emphasis added) Over 9,600 Marcellus Shale gas drilling permits and over 49,500 non-Marcellus Shale permits have been issued from 2000 to 2011 in Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 2011) and over 2,300 Marcellus Shale permits in West Virginia (West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, 2011), with most of the development activity occurring since 2005.
With the accompanying areas of disturbance, well pads, new roads, and pipelines from both types of natural gas wells, the effect on the landscape is often dramatic. Figure 2 (below) shows a pattern of landscape change from forest to forest, interspersed with gas extraction infrastructure. These landscape effects have consequences for the ecosystems, wildlife, and human populations that are colocated with natural gas extraction activities.
Read the complete report here: Landscape Consequences of Natural Gas Extraction in Bradford and Washington Counties, Pennsylvania, 2004–2010