Ecosystem Services Lost to Oil and Gas in North America

Science (April 24, 2015, v348 n6233 p401-402; doi: 10.1126/science.aaa4785) / by Brady W. Allred, et al.

…We provide a first empirical analysis to advance beyond common rhetoric and speculation of oil and gas development (6), combining high-resolution satellite data of vegetation dynamics with industry data and publicly available data of historical and present-day oil and gas well locations for central North America. In addition to this broad-scale assessment of satellite-derived net primary production (NPP), a fundamental measure of a region’s ability to provide ecosystem services (7), we also evaluate patterns of land-use change and water use. Before this work, little has been done in examining these types of data and their relations with ecosystem services at broad scales…

We estimate that vegetation removal by oil and gas development from 2000 to 2012 reduced NPP by ∼4.5 Tg of carbon or 10 Tg of dry biomass across central North America (see the chart on page 402, left). The total amount lost in rangelands is the equivalent of approximately five million animal unit months (AUM; the amount of forage required for one animal for 1 month), which is more than half of annual available grazing on public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The amount of biomass lost in croplands is the equivalent of 120.2 million bushels of wheat, ∼6% of the wheat produced in 2013 within the region and 13% of the wheat exported by the United States


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