Ecotoxicology

, Volume 25, Issue 10, pp 1739–1750

Fracked ecology: Response of aquatic trophic structure and mercury biomagnification dynamics in the Marcellus Shale Formation

  • Christopher James Grant
  • Allison K. Lutz
  • Aaron D. Kulig
  • Mitchell R. Stanton
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10646-016-1717-8

Cite this article as:
Grant, C.J., Lutz, A.K., Kulig, A.D. et al. Ecotoxicology (2016) 25: 1739. doi:10.1007/s10646-016-1717-8

Abstract

Unconventional natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing practices (fracking) are increasing worldwide due to global energy demands. Research has only recently begun to assess fracking impacts to surrounding environments, and very little research is aimed at determining effects on aquatic biodiversity and contaminant biomagnification. Twenty-seven remotely-located streams in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale basin were sampled during June and July of 2012 and 2013. At each stream, stream physiochemical properties, trophic biodiversity, and structure and mercury levels were assessed. We used δ15N, δ13C, and methyl mercury to determine whether changes in methyl mercury biomagnification were related to the fracking occurring within the streams’ watersheds. While we observed no difference in rates of biomagnificaion related to within-watershed fracking activities, we did observe elevated methyl mercury concentrations that were influenced by decreased stream pH, elevated dissolved stream water Hg values, decreased macroinvertebrate Index for Biotic Integrity scores, and lower Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera macroinvertebrate richness at stream sites where fracking had occurred within their watershed. We documented the loss of scrapers from streams with the highest well densities, and no fish or no fish diversity at streams with documented frackwater fluid spills. Our results suggest fracking has the potential to alter aquatic biodiversity and methyl mercury concentrations at the base of food webs.

Keywords

Aquatic ecology Biodiversity Biomagnification Hydraulic fracturing Stable isotopes Marcellus shale 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher James Grant
    • 1
  • Allison K. Lutz
    • 2
  • Aaron D. Kulig
    • 1
  • Mitchell R. Stanton
    • 3
  1. 1.Juniata Collegevon Liebig Center for ScienceHuntingdonUSA
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentGeorgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA
  3. 3.Utah Division of Wildlife ResourcesVernalUSA