Open-File Report 2012–1154
Increased demands for cleaner burning energy, coupled with the relatively recent technological advances in accessing unconventional hydrocarbon-rich geologic formations, led to an intense effort to find and extract natural gas from various underground sources around the country. One of these sources, the Marcellus Shale, located in the Allegheny Plateau, is undergoing extensive drilling and production. The technology used to extract gas in the Marcellus Shale is known as hydraulic fracturing and has garnered much attention because of its use of large amounts of fresh water, its use of proprietary fluids for the hydraulic-fracturing process, its potential to release contaminants into the environment, and its potential effect on water resources. Nonetheless, development of natural gas extraction wells in the Marcellus Shale is only part of the overall natural gas story in the area of Pennsylvania. Coalbed methane, which is sometimes extracted using the same technique, is often located in the same general area as the Marcellus Shale and is frequently developed in clusters across the landscape. The combined effects of these two natural gas extraction methods create potentially serious patterns of disturbance on the landscape. This document quantifies the landscape changes and consequences of natural gas extraction for Bradford County and Washington County, Pennsylvania, between 2004 and 2010. Patterns of landscape disturbance related to natural gas extraction activities were collected and digitized using National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) imagery for 2004, 2005/2006, 2008, and 2010. The disturbance patterns were then used to measure changes in land cover and land use using the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) of 2001. A series of landscape metrics is used to quantify these changes and are included in this publication.
First posted September 5, 2012
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Slonecker, E.T., Milheim, L.E., Roig-Silva, C.M., Malizia, A.R., Marr, D.A., and Fisher, G.B., 2012, Landscape consequences of natural gas extraction in Bradford and Washington Counties, Pennsylvania, 2004–2010: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2012–1154, 36 p., available only at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2012/1154.
Introduction: Natural Gas Extraction
Landscape Metrics and a Landscape Perspective
Methodology: Mapping and Measuring Disturbance Effects
Results: Summary Statistics and Graphics