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Quantifying, comparing, and contrasting forest change pattern from shale gas infrastructure development in the British Columbia’s shale gas plays

Authors: Joseph Oduro Appiah*, University of Northern British Columbia - Prince George, BC, Christopher Opio, University of Northern British Columbia- Prince George, BC, Shanon Donnelly, University of Akron- Akron, Ohio
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Landscape, Land Use and Land Cover Change
Keywords: shale gas land uses, land use processes, land change pattern, remote sensing of forest, forest fragmentation, landscape metrics, northeastern British Columbia
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Understanding the interconnection between land use processes and the land change patterns is yet to be fully achieved. Land change researchers have posited that the lack of understanding is not due to lack of effort but rather the difficulty in the task of seeking understanding, theoretically and practically. In this study, to understand forest change patterns from shale oil and gas (SOG) land use, we combine geospatial approach with metrics from landscape ecology to compare and contrast forest change from SOG infrastructure development in the four shale gas plays in British Columbia (BC). The study finds that cumulatively, between 1975 and 2017, the Cordova, Horn, Liard, and Montney shale gas plays have lost 0.30%, 0.25%, 0.14%, and 0.36% of forest cover, respectively, due to the construction of SOG well pads, access roads, and pipelines. Also, we find that the shale gas plays with the largest quantity of forest cover loss from SOG infrastructure construction have the highest amount of forest fragmentation and vice versa. The results, however, suggest that differences in the intensity of forest cover change from shale gas land use is likely to create different ecologically significant forest fragmentation patterns. From a broader perspective, this study demonstrates how different levels of human-environment interactions yield different levels of anthropogenic land use impacts on the environment. The study provides land managers with a context for understanding the land use intensities and forest change pattern, which is relevant for sustainable land management in the shale gas plays in British Columbia.

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