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Wetland losses related to fault movement and hydrocarbon production, southeastern Texas coast

October 21, 1997

Time series analyses of surface fault activity and nearby hydrocarbon production from the southeastern Texas coast show a high correlation among volume of produced fluids, timing of fault activation, rates of subsidence, and rates of wetland loss. Greater subsidence on the downthrown sides of faults contributes to more frequent flooding and generally wetter conditions, which are commonly reflected by changes in plant communities {e.g., Spartina patens to Spartina alterniflora) or progressive transformation of emergent vegetation to open water. Since the 1930s and 1950s, approximately 5,000 hectares of marsh habitat has been lost as a result of subsidence associated with faulting. Marsh- es have expanded locally along faults where hydrophytic vegetation has spread into former upland areas. Fault traces are linear to curvilinear and are visible because elevation differences across faults alter soil hydrology and vegetation. Fault lengths range from 1 to 13.4 km and average 3.8 km. Seventy-five percent of the faults visible on recent aerial photographs are not visible on photographs taken in the 1930's, indicating relatively recent fault movement. At least 80% of the surface faults correlate with extrapolated subsurface faults; the correlation increases to more than 90% when certain assumptions are made to compensate for mismatches in direction of displacement. Coastal wetlands loss in Texas associated with hydrocarbon extraction will likely increase where production in mature fields is prolonged without fiuid reinjection.

Publication Year 1997
Title Wetland losses related to fault movement and hydrocarbon production, southeastern Texas coast
Authors William A. White, Robert A. Morton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Coastal Research
Index ID 70129395
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coastal and Marine Geology Program