A Framework to Predict the Impacts of Shale Gas Infrastructures on the Forest Fragmentation of an Agroforest Region
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We propose a framework to facilitate the evaluation of the impacts of shale gas infrastructures (well pads, roads, and pipelines) on land cover features, especially with regards to forest fragmentation. We used a geographic information system and realistic development scenarios largely inspired by the PA (United States) experience, but adapted to a region of QC (Canada) with an already fragmented forest cover and a high gas potential. The scenario with the greatest impact results from development limited by regulatory constraints only, with no access to private roads for connecting well pads to the public road network. The scenario with the lowest impact additionally integrates ecological constraints (deer yards, maple woodlots, and wetlands). Overall the differences between these two scenarios are relatively minor, with <1 % of the forest cover lost in each case. However, large areas of core forests would be lost in both scenarios and the number of forest patches would increase by 13–21 % due to fragmentation. The pipeline network would have a much greater footprint on the land cover than access roads. Using data acquired since the beginning of the shale gas industry, we show that it is possible, within a reasonable time frame, to produce a robust assessment of the impacts of shale gas extraction. The framework we propose could easily be applied to other contexts or jurisdictions.