The Williston Basin, located in the Northern Great Plains, is experiencing rapid energy development with North Dakota and Montana being the epicenter of current and projected development in the USA. The average single-bore well pad is 5 acres with an estimated 58,485 wells in North Dakota alone. This landscape-level disturbance may provide a pathway for the establishment of non-native plants. To evaluate potential influences of energy development on the presence and abundance of non-native species, vegetation surveys were conducted at 30 oil well sites (14 ten-year-old and 16 five-year-old wells) and 14 control sites in native prairie environments across the Williston Basin. Non-native species richness and cover were recorded in four quadrats, located at equal distances, along four transects for a total of 16 quadrats per site. Non-natives were recorded at all 44 sites and ranged from 5 to 13 species, 7 to 15 species, and 2 to 8 species at the 10-year, 5-year, and control sites, respectively. Respective non-native cover ranged from 1 to 69, 16 to 76, and 2 to 82 %. Total, forb, and graminoid non-native species richness and non-native forb cover were significantly greater at oil well sites compared to control sites. At oil well sites, non-native species richness and forb cover were significantly greater adjacent to the well pads and decreased with distance to values similar to control sites. Finally, non-native species whose presence and/or abundance were significantly greater at oil well sites relative to control sites were identified to aid management efforts.
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The author wishes to thank the following individuals for their contributions: Tara Chesley-Preston (Montana State University Institute on Ecosystems) assisted in identifying study sites; Karen Newlon (Montana Natural Heritage Program) conducted oversight of the vegetation surveys performed by Nick Smith, Isabel Beavers, and Luke Obermeyer; Joseph Washington (U.S. Forest Service Medora Ranger Station) provided logistical support; and Kathryn Irvine and Robert Diehl (U.S. Geological Survey Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center) provided statistical assistance and general counsel, respectively.
Compliance with ethical standards
The author declares there are no conflicts of interest. This project was fully funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Plains and Prairie Potholes Landscape Conservation Cooperative (grant number CFDA 15.669). Manuscript contents have been reviewed by the U.S. Geological Survey and approved for publication. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
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Preston, T.M. Presence and abundance of non-native plant species associated with recent energy development in the Williston Basin. Environ Monit Assess 187, 200 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-015-4408-7
- Bakken Formation
- Energy development
- Native prairie
- Non-native species
- Williston Basin