Impacts from Above-Ground Activities in the Eagle Ford Shale Play on Landscapes and Hydrologic Flows, La Salle County, Texas
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- Pierre, J.P., Abolt, C.J. & Young, M.H. Environmental Management (2015) 55: 1262. doi:10.1007/s00267-015-0492-2
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We assess the spatial and geomorphic fragmentation from the recent Eagle Ford Shale play in La Salle County, Texas, USA. Wells and pipelines were overlaid onto base maps of land cover, soil properties, vegetation assemblages, and hydrologic units. Changes to continuity of different ecoregions and supporting landscapes were assessed using the Landscape Fragmentation Tool (a third-party ArcGIS extension) as quantified by land area and continuity of core landscape areas (i.e., those degraded by “edge effects”). Results show decreases in core areas (8.7 %; ~33,290 ha) and increases in landscape patches (0.2 %; ~640 ha), edges (1.8 %; ~6940 ha), and perforated areas (4.2 %; ~16230 ha). Pipeline construction dominates landscape disturbance, followed by drilling and injection pads (85, 15, and 0.03 % of disturbed area, respectively). An increased potential for soil loss is indicated, with 51 % (~5790 ha) of all disturbance regimes occurring on soils with low water-transmission rates (depth to impermeable layer less than 50 cm) and a high surface runoff potential (hydrologic soil group D). Additionally, 88 % (~10,020 ha) of all disturbances occurred on soils with a wind erodibility index of approximately 19 kt/km2/year (0.19 kt/ha/year) or higher, resulting in an estimated potential of 2 million tons of soil loss per year. Results demonstrate that infrastructure placement is occurring on soils susceptible to erosion while reducing and splitting core areas potentially vital to ecosystem services.