Monday, October 19, 2015

U.S. Geological Survey Releases a Study Addressing Grassland Bird Density in Oil and Gas Development Areas

On October 14, 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey released a study entitled “Avoidance of unconventional oil wells and roads exacerbates habitat loss for grassland birds in the North American great plains” published in the Elsevier Journal. The study examines the population-level impacts of oil and gas development on grassland birds in northwestern North Dakota from 2012 to 2014.

The researchers measured bird density in areas with extensive oil and gas development and related infrastructures.  Based on singing bird surveys, they observed that grassland birds avoided habitat within 150 m of roadways, 267 m of single-bore well edges, and 150 m of multi-bore well edges.

The researchers noted, however, that noise from oil and gas infrastructure does not affect species in the same way, pointing out that “[v]arying tolerance of anthropogenic noise is suggested as a factor driving variation in avian avoidance of natural gas wells, but oil wells in [the study area] were considerably less noisy and thus noise is less likely to be a key driver in this system.”

The researchers concluded that placing multi-bore well pads instead of single-bore well pads along bird migration corridors “may be a viable method to minimize the footprint of oil development.” 

Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow

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