GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 299-9
Presentation Time: 3:35 PM


WOLAVER, Brad David1, PIERRE, Jon Paul1, LABAY, Benjamin J.2, LADUC, Travis J.2, DURAN, C. Mike3, RYBERG, Wade A.4 and HIBBITTS, Toby J.5, (1)Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78758, (2)Department of Integrative Biology, College of Natural Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, (3)The Nature Conservancy, San Antonio, TX 78215, (4)Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, (5)Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843,

Recent research has assessed how well pads, pipelines, and other surface infrastructure associated with unconventional oil and gas development in North America has altered the landscape. Less well understood, however, are the effects of these changes in land use relative to other anthropogenic factors. Thus, for ~100 counties in Texas (~324,000 km2, ~50% of state‚Äôs land area), we mapped the land footprint of energy- and non-energy-related activities. This study presents a snapshot of current landscape alteration as of 2014 for a study area that includes ~794,000 oil and gas wells, ~6,300 wind turbines, ~236,000 km of oil and gas pipelines, and ~2,000 km of electrical transmission lines. We digitized landscape alteration from unconventional oil and gas development and wind power generation using high-resolution (1-m) aerial photography. We identified surface disturbance from the construction of well pads, oil and gas pipelines, wind turbines, and wind power transmission lines. We mapped non-energy-related development (i.e., agriculture, roads, urbanization, and other development) using the National Land Cover Dataset and a statewide road database. We found that anthropogenic landscape alteration by all factors affects ~24% of the study area (~78,000 km2). Agriculture was the dominant factor altering the landscape (~16% of total alteration; ~52,670 km2). Developed areas affected ~6% (~19,600 km²), with ~3.6% (~11,784 km2) in rural areas and ~2.4% (~1,872 km2) in urbanized areas. The land footprint of oil and gas development altered <1% of the study area (~2,963 km2), with ~0.7% (~2,269 km2) from well pads and ~0.2% (~695 km2) from pipelines. State, county, and municipally maintained roads covered ~2,686 km2 (<1%). Wind energy infrastructure occupied <0.01% (~23 km²), with ~13 km2 from turbine pads and ~10 km2 from power transmission lines. Our work was motivated by the need to understand what factors may affect the habitats of several species of state and federal interest in a large portion of Texas. However, the landscape alteration framework we present here should be of great interest to researchers evaluating the comparative effects of a suite of anthropogenic factors in and around unconventional energy development in North America and globally.