Main content area

Comparison of Recent Oil and Gas, Wind Energy, and Other Anthropogenic Landscape Alteration Factors in Texas Through 2014

Pierre, JonPaul, Wolaver, BradD., Labay, BenjaminJ., LaDuc, TravisJ., Duran, CharlesM., Ryberg, WadeA., Hibbitts, TobyJ., Andrews, JohnR.
Environmental management 2018 v.61 no.5 pp. 805-818
Permian period, anthropogenic activities, basins, edge effects, energy, land use change, landscapes, lizards, oil fields, oils, pipelines, population growth, power generation, power lines, roads, urbanization, wind power, wind turbines, Texas
Recent research assessed how hydrocarbon and wind energy expansion has altered the North American landscape. Less understood, however, is how this energy development compares to other anthropogenic land use changes. Texas leads U.S. hydrocarbon production and wind power generation and has a rapidly expanding population. Thus, for ~47% of Texas (~324,000 km²), we mapped the 2014 footprint of energy activities (~665,000 oil and gas wells, ~5700 wind turbines, ~237,000 km oil and gas pipelines, and ~2000 km electrical transmission lines). We compared the footprint of energy development to non-energy-related activities (agriculture, roads, urbanization) and found direct landscape alteration from all factors affects ~23% of the study area (~76,000 km²), led by agriculture (~16%; ~52,882 km²). Oil and gas activities altered <1% of the study area (2081 km²), with 838 km² from pipelines and 1242 km² from well pad construction—and that the median Eagle Ford well pad is 7.7 times larger than that in the Permian Basin (16,200 vs. 2100 m²). Wind energy occupied <0.01% (~24 km²), with ~14 km² from turbine pads and ~10 km² from power transmission lines. We found that edge effects of widely-distributed energy infrastructure caused more indirect landscape alteration than larger, more concentrated urbanization and agriculture. This study presents a novel technique to quantify and compare anthropogenic activities causing both direct and indirect landscape alteration. We illustrate this landscape-mapping framework in Texas for the Spot-tailed Earless Lizard (Holbrookia lacerata); however, the approach can be applied to a range of species in developing regions globally.