Natural Gas

The Appalachian Basin region of the Mid-Atlantic contains one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. The Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale formations underlie an estimated two-thirds of Pennsylvania, extending across the entire northern tier and western half of the state and into five neighboring states. Extracting natural gas from this shale layer requires both vertical and horizontal drilling combined with a complex process called hydraulic fracturing that involves injecting large amounts of water, sand, and chemicals into underground rock formations to free trapped gas or oil.

The recent development of deep natural gas reserves in the shale formations is changing the landscape of the region. The infrastructure developed for shale gas extraction can lead to a number of landscape and habitat changes resulting from forest fragmentation, changes in water quality and quantity, alteration in local hydrology, increases in forest road traffic, the spread of invasive species, and elevated light and noise levels. These changes can impact many species, both common and rare.  Habitat fragmentation from roads, forest clearing, roads, and pipeline rights-of-ways can isolate populations or impede movement from one critical habitat to another.  Fragmentation can inhibit the gene flow between populations, eventually leading to a decrease in the fitness of populations.  Additionally, spills of chemicals or improper wastewater disposal can affect the aquatic health of streams and wetlands.  Great care should be taken to minimize the negative impacts of drilling for natural gas and other resources.

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