Mapping Oil and Gas Development Potential in the US Intermountain West and Estimating Impacts to Species

Many studies have quantified the indirect effect of hydrocarbon-based economies on climate change and biodiversity, concluding that a significant proportion of species will be threatened with extinction. However, few studies have measured the direct effect of new energy production infrastructure on species persistence.

Methodology/Principal Findings
We propose a systematic way to forecast patterns of future energy development and calculate impacts to species using spatially-explicit predictive modeling techniques to estimate oil and gas potential and create development build-out scenarios by seeding the landscape with oil and gas wells based on underlying potential. We illustrate our approach for the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in the western US and translate the build-out scenarios into estimated impacts on sage-grouse. We project that future oil and gas development will cause a 7–19 percent decline from 2007 sage-grouse lek population counts and impact 3.7 million ha of sagebrush shrublands and 1.1 million ha of grasslands in the study area.

Conclusions/Significance
Maps of where oil and gas development is anticipated in the US Intermountain West can be used by decision-makers intent on minimizing impacts to sage-grouse. This analysis also provides a general framework for using predictive models and build-out scenarios to anticipate impacts to species. These predictive models and build-out scenarios allow tradeoffs to be considered between species conservation and energy development prior to implementation.

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Citation: Copeland HE, Doherty KE, Naugle DE, Pocewicz A, Kiesecker JM (2009) Mapping Oil and Gas Development Potential in the US Intermountain West and Estimating Impacts to Species. PLoS ONE 4(10): e7400. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007400

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