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Risks to biodiversity from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shales

High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HVHHF) occurs at increasing density across potentially 280,000 km2 of the eastern United States
underlain at depth by the natural gas–bearing Marcellus and Utica shales. These industrial installations and their edge effects alter as much as 80% of local landscapes.

The predicted intensity, speed, and extent of industrialization of the landscape have engendered concern about human health but little discussion of the effects on biodiversity, although HVHHF has been identified as a global conservation issue. Although the biota of the eastern United States is relatively well studied, many of the rare organisms potentially susceptible to industrial impacts are not.

For example, the woodland salamanders (Plethodon) are diverse and sensitive to landscape and soil conditions; many species have only been
described in recent decades; and as a group they are declining. Although a direct survey of many taxa may be infeasible, indicator taxa may not effectively represent overall diversity. In general, various taxa use different micro- and macrohabitats and have different conservation needs; one taxon may not predict the occurrence or sensitivity to impacts of another taxon.

This review focuses on the physical and chemical impacts of HVHHF on habitats, taxa, and guilds, and suggests which organisms have particular sensitivities that may put them at risk.


Author: Erik Kiviat - 2013

Download and read the review in PDF format in the attachment section below


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