Remote sensing and citizen science to monitor the impact of Marcellus shale gas development on avian populations

Authors: Michela Burla*, Pennsylvania State University and Quantum Spatial Inc, Julian Avery*, Penn State University
Topics: Remote Sensing, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Natural Resources
Keywords: Remote sensing, Object-Based Image Analysis, GEOBIA, eBird, citizen science, high-resolution aerial imagery, LiDAR, Marcellus play, shale gas development
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Technological advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling over the past decade and a half have made natural gas trapped in shale formations cost-effective to extract. The Marcellus play, which extends from Upstate New York, through a big part of Pennsylvania, to West Virginia and parts of Ohio, is considered one of the richest gas fields in North America. Forests dominate Pennsylvania’s landscape, with extensive remaining tracts of contiguous forest that are vital to a diverse community of forest-interior bird species. With a surge in shale gas development in the Marcellus play that started in 2007, there is concern for forest fragmentation effects of gas infrastructure that may lead to loss of critical core forest habitat. In this study, we use Object-Based Image Analysis of high-resolution aerial imagery from the National Agriculture Imagery Program, with a data fusion approach that incorporates height information from lidar data, to detect land cover change associated with shale gas development at the regional scale. We further look at the potential association between the resulting forest fragmentation and changes in the forest bird community structure by leveraging a citizen-science dataset, eBird, complemented by data from the Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas. This study focuses on the change that occurred between the period 2006-2008, used as baseline, and 2015 (post-development) in two Pennsylvania counties, one that has experienced significant pressure from shale gas development (Lycoming County) and a second one (Carbon County) that has been mostly spared by it.

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