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Annotated bibliography of scientific research relevant to oil and gas reclamation best management practices in the western United States, published from 1969 through 2020

March 14, 2024

Integrating recent scientific knowledge into management decisions supports effective natural resource management and can lead to better resource outcomes. However, finding and accessing scientific knowledge can be time consuming and costly. To assist in this process, the U.S. Geological Survey has created a series of annotated bibliographies on topics of management concern for lands in the western United States (U.S.). Oil and gas development on public lands is a long-standing and substantial component of local and regional economies and has expanded in recent decades, particularly on public lands in the western U.S. This development is associated with extensive networks of pipelines, roads, and processing facilities, across which reclamation is Federally mandated following initial well pad development (“interim” reclamation) and once resource extraction is complete (“final” reclamation). Reclamation is critical for recovering ecological services to energy-affected lands, including vegetation productivity, wildlife habitat, water and air quality, and soil stability (for example, resistance to wind and water erosion). However, reclamation of oil and gas affected lands in the western U.S. has proved challenging due to an array of regulatory and environmental factors, such as minimally developed soils, short growing seasons, herbivory, high winds, invasive species, rugged terrain, and in particular, arid climates associated with low total precipitation, high evapotranspiration rates, and highly variable precipitation patterns. We compiled and summarized journal articles, government reports, technical reports, proceedings, and theses and dissertations relevant to oil and gas reclamation. We constrained our search to products published on or before December 31, 2020 but did not limit our search by a starting date; the earliest product resulting from this effort was published in March 1969. Second, we manually scanned the last 15 years (2005-2020) of tables of contents in journals, bibliographies, and proceedings of which we were aware would contain articles highly relevant to this bibliography. We carried out the search for these products through multiple means: (1) performing a structured search of two reference databases, (2) examining articles published since 2005 in highly relevant scientific journals and conference proceedings, and (3) reviewing additional material suggested by authors of products identified in steps 1 and 2. Our search was intentionally broad in order to identify as much relevant work as possible, much of which is professionally applied and tested within the industry of oil and gas reclamation, but which remains unpublished in scientific journals. We refined the initial list of products by removing: (1) duplicates, (2) products not written in English, (3) products that were not relevant to the arid ecosystems of western North America, (4) products that were not released as research, data products, or review articles in journals or as formal scientific reports, and (5) products with data which were not relevant to reclamation of oil and gas-affected lands, or for which the study did not present new data, findings, or syntheses relevant to reclamation of oil and gas-affected lands.

We summarized each product using a consistent structure (background, objectives, methods, location, findings, and implications) and assigned standardized management topics to each. Management topics are intended to aid online searching within the bibliography and are described in more detail in the Methods Section of this report; they include what type of disturbance the product addresses (well pads, mining, pipelines), what aspect of oil and gas reclamation they pertain to (practices, standards, monitoring), what type of data are present in the product (for instance soil or vegetation recovery data), and an indication if the product were from a source other than a published, peer-reviewed outlet (such as dissertations or unpublished professional reports – these are identified as grey literature). The review process for this annotated bibliography included an initial internal colleague review of each summary, requesting input on each summary from an author of the original product, and a formal peer-review. Our initial searches resulted in 3,197 total products, of which 290 met our criteria for inclusion. “Reclamation Practices” is by far the management topic most addressed, followed by “Reclamation Monitoring,” for example, products assessing what and how monitoring methods are used to track and measure reclamation outcome. This document may be accessed at or from the U.S. Geological Survey Publication Warehouse ( The 1-page product summaries herein will also be used to create a bibliography at that includes links to each original product, where available, and in which subject matter will be searchable by topic, location, and year. The studies compiled and summarized here may inform planning and management actions that seek to reclaim landscapes across the western U.S. which have been affected by oil and gas development.

Publication Year 2024
Title Annotated bibliography of scientific research relevant to oil and gas reclamation best management practices in the western United States, published from 1969 through 2020
DOI 10.3133/ofr20231068
Authors Rebecca K. Mann, Molly L. McCormick, Seth M. Munson, Hillary F. Cooper, Lee C. Bryant, Jared K. Swenson, Laura A. Johnston, Savannah L. Wilson, Michael C. Duniway
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2023-1068
Index ID ofr20231068
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center