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

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 

References

  1. Baptista DF, Buss DF, Egler M, Giovanelli A, Silveira MP, Nessimian JL (2007) A multimetric index based on benthic macroinvertebrates for evaluation of Atlantic Forest streams at Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. Hydrobiologia 575:83–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barbour, MT, Gerritsen, J, Snyder, BD, Stribling, JB, Macroinvertebrates, B (1998) Rapid bioassessment protocols for use in streams and wadeable rivers: periphyton, benthic macroinvertebrates and fish, Second Edition. US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water Washington DC, USEPA. 2nd edn. p 339.Google Scholar
  3. Chalfant B (2012) Benthic macroinvertebrate index of biotic integrity from wadeable freestone rif-fle-run streams in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Water Quality Standards, Harrisburg, PAGoogle Scholar
  4. Chasar LC, Scudder BC, Stewart AR, Bell AH, Aiken GR (2009) Mercury cycling in stream ecosystems. 3. Trophic dynamics and methylmercury bioaccumulation. Environl Sci Technol 43:2733–2739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chételat J, Amyot M, Garcia E (2011) Habitat-specific bioaccumulation of methylmercury in invertebrates of small mid-latitude lakes in North America. Environ Pollut 159:10–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dittman J, Shanley J, Driscoll C, Aiken G, Chalmers A, Towse J, Selvendiran P (2010) Mercury dynamics in relation to dissolved organic carbon concentration and quality during high flow events in three northeastern U.S. streams. Water Resour Res 46(7):W07522. doi:10.1029/2009WR008351 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Drohan PJ, Brittingham M, Bishop J, Yoder K (2012) Early trends in landcover change and forest fragmentation due to shale-gas development in Pennsylvania: a potential outcome for the northcentral Appalachians. Environ Manage 49:1061–1075CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Entrekin S, Evans-White M, Johnson B, Hagenbuch E (2011) Rapid expansion of natural gas development poses a threat to surface waters. Front Ecol Environ 9:503–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ferrar KJ, Kriesky J, Christen CL, Marshall LP, Malone SL, Sharma RK, Michanowicz DR, Goldstein BD (2013) Assessment and longitudinal analysis of health impacts and stressors perceived to result from unconventional shale gas development in the Marcellus shale region. Inter J Occupa Environ Health 19:104–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Garvie, KH, Shaw, K (2015) Shale gas development and community response: perspectives from treaty 8 territory, British Columbia. Local Env 21(8):1–20Google Scholar
  11. Gesch, DB (2007) The national elevation dataset. In: Maune, D. (ed)Digital elevation model technologies and applications: The DEM users manual, 1st edn. American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Bethesda, MD, pp 99–118Google Scholar
  12. Grant CJ, Weimer AB, Marks NK, Perow ES, Oster JM, Brubaker KM, Trexler RV, Solomon CM, Lamendella R (2015) Marcellus and mercury: assessing potential impacts of unconventional natural gas extraction on aquatic ecosystems in northwestern Pennsylvania. J Environ Sci Health, Part A 50:482–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jardine TD, Kidd KA, Rasmussen JB (2012) Aquatic and terrestrial organic matter in the diet of stream consumers: implications for mercury bioaccumulation. Ecol Appl 22:843–855CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jardine TD, Kidd KA, O’ Driscoll N (2013) Food web analysis reveals effects of pH on mercury bioaccumulation at multiple trophic levels in streams. Aquat toxicol (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) 132–133:46–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kelly CA, Rudd JWM, Holoka MH (2003) Effect of pH on mercury uptake by an aquatic bacterium: implications for Hg cycling. Environ Sci Technol 37:2941–2946CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kharaka YK, Thordsen JJ, Conaway CH, Thomas RB (2013) The energy-water nexus: potential groundwater-quality degradation associated with production of shale gas. Procedia Earth Planetary Sci 7:417–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Levis E (2011) Texas Company Pays $93,710 settlement for polluting Clearfield County Creek. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commision. https://hero.epa.gov/hero/index.cfm/reference/details/reference_id/2447894. Accessed May 2016
  18. Liu G, Cai Y, O’Driscoll N, Feng X, Jiang G (2011) Overview of Mercury in the Environment. Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology of Mercury. John Wiley & Sons Inc, Hoboken, NJ, pp 445–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Llewellyn GT, Dorman F, Westland JL, Yoxtheimer D, Grieve P, Sowers T, Humston-Fulmer E, Brantley SL (2015a) Evaluating a groundwater supply contamination incident attributed to Marcellus Shale gas development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112:6325–6330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lutz, MA, Brigham, ME, Marvin-Di Pasquale, M (2008) Procedures for Collecting and Processing Streambed Sediment and Pore Water for Analysis of Mercury as Part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. US Geological Survey, Reston, VA.Google Scholar
  21. Merritt, RW, Cummins, KW, Berg, MB (2008) An introduction to the aquatic insects of North America, 4th Edn. Kendall Hunt Publisher, Dubuque, IAGoogle Scholar
  22. Mierzykowski SE, P Ruksznis, D McCaw, J Czapiga (2008) Environmental contaminants in brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) from Cove Brook and two tributaries of the Sheepscot River. USFWS. Spec. Proj. Rep. FY07-MEFO-5-EC. Maine Field Office. Old Town, ME. 41 pp.Google Scholar
  23. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. (2011) Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement Regulatory Program Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling And High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.Google Scholar
  24. PADEP (2012a) Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP). Permits Issued Detail Report, http://www.depreportingservices.state.pa.us/ReportServer/Pages/ReportViewer.aspx?/Oil_Gas/Permits_Issued_Detail
  25. PADEP (2012b) Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) SPUD Data Report, http://www.depreportingservices.state.pa.us/ReportServer/Pages/ReportViewer.aspx?/Oil_Gas/Spud_External_Data
  26. PAMAP (2016) PAMAP program land cover for Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania geospatial data clearinghouse; University Park, PA, 2005. Available at http://www.pasda.psu.edu/uci/FullMetadataDisplay.aspx?file=palanduse05utm18nad83.xml. Accessed Mar 2016
  27. PASDA (2016) Networked streams of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Geospatial Data Clearinghouse, 1998. http://www.pasda.psu.edu/uci/FullMetadataDisplay.aspx?file=netstreams1998.xml. Accessed Mar 2016
  28. Peduzzia P, Harding R (2013) Gas fracking: can we safely squeeze the rocks?. Environ Dev 6:86–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Perkins MJ, McDonald RA, van Veen FJF, Kelly SD, Rees G, Bearhop S (2014) Application of nitrogen and carbon stable isotopes (δ(15)N and δ(13)C) to quantify food chain length and trophic structure. PloS one 9:e93281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. R Development Core Team, R (2014) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, 1, 409Google Scholar
  31. Rahm D (2011) Regulating hydraulic fracturing in shale gas plays: the case of Texas. Energy Policy 39:2974–2981CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Riva-Murray K, Chasar LC, Bradley PM, Burns DA, Brigham ME, Smith MJ, Abrahamson TA (2011) Spatial patterns of mercury in macroinvertebrates and fishes from streams of two contrasting forested landscapes in the eastern United States. Ecotoxicology 20:1530–1542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Seifert LI, Scheu S (2012) Linking aquatic and terrestrial food webs–Odonata in boreal systems. Freshw Biol 57:1449–1457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Soil Survey Staff, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture. (2016) Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) Database for Pennsylvania. http://soildatamart.nrcs.usda.gov. Accessed Mar 2016
  35. Trexler R, Solomon C, Brislawn CJ, Wright JR, Rosenberger A, McClure EE, Grube AM, Peterson MP, Keddache M, Mason OU, Hazen TC, Grant CJ, Lamendella R (2014a) Assessing impacts of unconventional natural gas extraction on microbial communities in headwater stream ecosystems in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Front Microbiology 5:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Van der Velden S, Dempson JB, Evans MS, Muir DC, Power M (2013) Basal mercury concentrations and biomagnification rates in freshwater and marine food webs: effects on Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) from eastern Canada. Sci Total Environ 444:531–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. USEPA (2002) Method 1631, Revision E: Mercury in water by oxidation, purge and trap, and cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectrometry. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  38. USEPA (2007) Method 7473: Mercury in solids and solutions by thermal decomposition, amalgamation, and atomic absorption spectrometry. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC 1–17Google Scholar
  39. Wallace, JB, Grubaugh, JW, Whiles, MR (1996) Biotic. indices and stream ecosystem processes: results from an experimental study. Ecol applications 6(1):140–151Google Scholar
  40. Ward DM, Nislow KH, Folt CL (2010) Bioaccumulation syndrome: identifying factors that make some stream food webs prone to elevated mercury bioaccumulation. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1195:62–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations