Avoidance of unconventional oil wells and roads exacerbates habitat loss for grassland birds in the North American great plains

Biological Conservation
By: , and 

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Abstract

Oil development in the Bakken shale region has increased rapidly as a result of new technologies and strong demand for fossil fuel. This region also supports a particularly high density and diversity of grassland bird species, which are declining across North America. We examined grassland bird response to unconventional oil extraction sites (i.e. developed with hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques) and associated roads in North Dakota. Our goal was to quantify the amount of habitat that was indirectly degraded by oil development, as evidenced by patterns of avoidance by birds. Grassland birds avoided areas within 150 m of roads (95% CI: 87–214 m), 267 m of single-bore well pads (95% CI: 157–378 m), and 150 m of multi-bore well pads (95% CI: 67–233 m). Individual species demonstrated variable tolerance of well pads. Clay-colored sparrows (Spizella pallida) were tolerant of oil-related infrastructure, whereas Sprague's pipit (Anthus spragueii) avoided areas within 350 m (95% CI: 215–485 m) of single-bore well pads. Given these density patterns around oil wells, the potential footprint of any individual oil well, and oil development across the region, is greatly multiplied for sensitive species. Efforts to reduce new road construction, concentrate wells along developed corridors, combine numerous wells on multi-bore pads rather than build many single-bore wells, and to place well pads near existing roads will serve to minimize loss of suitable habitat for birds. Quantifying environmental degradation caused by oil development is a critical step in understanding how to better mitigate harm to wildlife populations.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Avoidance of unconventional oil wells and roads exacerbates habitat loss for grassland birds in the North American great plains
Series title Biological Conservation
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2015.08.040
Volume 192
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Kidlington, Oxford
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 9 p.
First page 82
Last page 90
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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