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Effects of Hydrocarbon Extraction on Landscapes of the Appalachian Basin

September 30, 2015

An important and sometimes overlooked aspect of contemporary natural gas exploration, development, and delivery activities is the geographic profile and spatial footprint that these activities have on the land surface. The function of many ecosystems and the goods and services they provide, in large part, are the result of their natural spatial arrangement on the landscape. Shale-gas development can create alterations to the pattern of land use and land cover, and represents a specific form of land use and land cover change that can substantially impact critical aspects of the spatial pattern, form, and function of landscape interactions, including many biological responses.

The need for energy resources has created numerous economic opportunities for hydrocarbon extraction in the Appalachian basin. The development of alternative energy natural gas resources from deep-shale drilling techniques, along with conventional natural gas extraction methods, has created a flurry of wells, roads, pipelines, and related infrastructure across many parts of the region. An unintended and sometimes overlooked consequence of these activities is their effect on the structure and function of the landscape and ecosystems. The collective effect of over 100,000 hydrocarbon extraction permits for oil, coal bed methane, Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas wells, and other types of hydrocarbon gases and their associated infrastructure has saturated much of the landscape and disturbed the natural environment in the Appalachian basin. The disturbance created by the sheer magnitude of the development of these collective wells and infrastructure directly affects how the landscape and ecosystems function and how they provide ecological goods and services. 

Publication Year 2015
Title Effects of Hydrocarbon Extraction on Landscapes of the Appalachian Basin
DOI 10.3133/fs20153064
Authors Terry E. Slonecker, Lesley E. Milheim, Coral M. Roig-Silva, Siddiq S. Kalaly
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 2015-3064
Index ID fs20153064
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Geographic Science Center