Mapping oil and gas development potential in the US intermountain west and estimating impacts to species

Holly E. Copeland, Kevin E. Doherty, David E. Naugle, Amy Pocewicz, Joseph M. Kiesecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Background: Many studies have quantified the indirect effect of hydrocarbon-based economies on climate change and biodiversity, concluding that a significant proportion of species will be threatened with extinction. However, few studies have measured the direct effect of new energy production infrastructure on species persistence. Methodology/Principal Findings: We propose a systematic way to forecast patterns of future energy development and calculate impacts to species using spatially-explicit predictive modeling techniques to estimate oil and gas potential and create development build-out scenarios by seeding the landscape with oil and gas wells based on underlying potential. We illustrate our approach for the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in the western US and translate the build-out scenarios into estimated impacts on sage-grouse. We project that future oil and gas development will cause a 7-19 percent decline from 2007 sage-grouse lek population counts and impact 3.7 million ha of sagebrush shrublands and 1.1 million ha of grasslands in the study area. Conclusions/Significance: Maps of where oil and gas development is anticipated in the US Intermountain West can be used by decision-makers intent on minimizing impacts to sage-grouse. This analysis also provides a general framework for using predictive models and build-out scenarios to anticipate impacts to species. These predictive models and build-out scenarios allow tradeoffs to be considered between species conservation and energy development prior to implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere7400
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 14 2009


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