Because shale gas development is occurring over large landscapes and consequently is affecting many headwater streams, an understanding of its effects on headwater-stream faunal communities is needed. We examined effects of shale gas development (well pads and associated infrastructure) on Louisiana waterthrush Parkesia motacilla and benthic macroinvertebrate communities in 12 West Virginia headwater streams in 2011. Streams were classed as impacted (n = 6) or unimpacted (n = 6) by shale gas development. We quantified waterthrush demography (nest success, clutch size, number of fledglings, territory density), a waterthrush Habitat Suitability Index, a Rapid Bioassessment Protocol habitat index, and benthic macroinvertebrate metrics including a genus-level stream-quality index for each stream. We compared each benthic metric between impacted and unimpacted streams with a Student's t-test that incorporated adjustments for normalizing data. Impacted streams had lower genus-level stream-quality index scores; lower overall and Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera richness; fewer intolerant taxa, more tolerant taxa, and greater density of 0–3-mm individuals (P ≤ 0.10). We then used Pearson correlation to relate waterthrush metrics to benthic metrics across the 12 streams. Territory density (no. of territories/km of stream) was greater on streams with higher genus-level stream-quality index scores; greater density of all taxa and Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera taxa; and greater biomass. Clutch size was greater on streams with higher genus-level stream-quality index scores. Nest survival analyses (n = 43 nests) completed with Program MARK suggested minimal influence of benthic metrics compared with nest stage and Habitat Suitability Index score. Although our study spanned only one season, our results suggest that shale gas development affected waterthrush and benthic communities in the headwater streams we studied. Thus, these ecological effects of shale gas development warrant closer examination.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Louisiana waterthrush and benthic macroinvertebrate response to shale gas development|
|Series title||Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management|
|Publisher||U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service|
|Contributing office(s)||Coop Res Unit Leetown|
|Other Geospatial||Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area|