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2011 -12 Seminars


Habitat Impacts and Conservation Opportunities From Energy Development in the Central Appalachians

Nels Johnson
Deputy State Director, Pennsylvania Chapter
The Nature Conservancy

Abstract
Natural gas development and wind power have rapidly emerged as conservation challenges in Pennsylvania. The Nature Conservancy and partner organizations assessed the potential forest habitat impacts of current and future Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling and wind turbine locations in Pennsylvania (www.nature.org/paenergy). We used maximum entropy modeling to produce a surface representing the probability of conversion to wind or Marcellus gas development and then generated and mapped low, medium, and high scenarios for future Marcellus drilling and wind sites. By 2030, sixty thousand new Marcellus gas wells could be drilled in Pennsylvania alone, directly clearing between 38,000 to 90,000 acres of forest and creating between 91,000 and 220,000 acres of additional forest edge habitats where the risk of predation, changes in light and humidity, and expanded presence of invasive species could threaten forest interior species. This development could transform the regionís iconic forests and impact many thousands of acres of key habitat for songbirds, salamanders, and trout. The Nature Conservancy is partnering with conservation groups, energy companies, and research/training organizations to conduct a larger-scale assessment of energy development impacts in other Central Appalachian states, and develop a decision support tool for integrating conservation data into Marcellus gas infrastructure planning.