Drilling for oil and gas has created continental wide damage to agricultural ecosystems in Canada and the U.S., leading to a net reduction in primary production crop and range lands.
The report has suggested that with 50,000 new high volume hydraulic fracturing wells installed since 2000, millions of hectares of Great Plains have been transformed into heavily industrialised landscapes. The report states:
“It is the scale of this transformation that is important, as accumulating land degradation can result in continental impacts that are undetectable when focusing on any single region.”
The report further states that the Oil and Gas industry directly reduces vegetation to allow construction of oil pads, roads and pipes etc, which in turn leads to a reduction of wildlife, biodiversity and food production.
Not only does the Oil and Gas industry expel more carbon dioxide into the air, there will also be less vegetation that can remove carbon from the local atmosphere.
When inhaling and exhaling air, we all understand that humans take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Plants on the other hand, take in carbon dioxide and gove out oxygen. They report has estimated that total vegetation removed for Oil and Gas operations across Central North America to be around 4.5 Tg of carbon, or 4.5 billion Kg.
Furthermore, an Animal Unit Month (AUM), is the amount of vegetation required to support one animal for one month, and the researchers have estimated that 5 million AUM have been removed since 2000. The report states that this damage is:
“likely long-lasting and potentially permanent, as recovery or reclamation of previously drilled land has not kept pace with accelerated drilling. This is not surprising because current reclamation practices vary by land ownership and governing body, target only limited portions of the energy landscape, require substantial funding and implementation commitments, and are often not initiated until the end of life of a well.”
As of 2012 land use for Oil and Gas operations numbers only around 3 million hectares, the equivalent to three Yellowstone Parks. ON a continental scale, this amount of land mass is relatively small. However, these ecosystems have both been replaced elsewhere and as a result, there are irreversible effects, such as increasing fragmentation that can sever migratory pathways, alter wildlife behavior and mortality, and increase susceptibility to ecologically disruptive invasive species. As competition for arable land intensifies because of food and bio-energy demand, oil and gas may further expand into native range lands.
With drilling for Oil and Gas set to continue, it can only be predicted that these negative ecological characteristics can only increase.
To read the report for yourself in full, click here.