Landscape-scale effects of oil and gas development on grassland passerines in southern Alberta
Agriculture and, more recently, oil and gas development have contributed to extensive degradation and loss of temperate grasslands. I investigated the landscape-scale effects of oil and gas development, and roads, on grassland birds in southern Alberta using abundance, clutch size and nesting success data collected from 2010-2014. I estimated: (i) the distance at which there are effects of edge, and effects of shallow gas well density, using piecewise regressions; (ii) the locations and extent of habitat affected by infrastructure for obligate grassland species– Baird’s Sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii), Chestnut-collared Longspur (Calcarius ornatus) and Sprague’s Pipit (Anthus spragueii); and generalist species – Clay-colored Sparrows (Spizella pallida), Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris), Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis), Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) and Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), and (iii) the total area affected by wells and roads. My findings suggest that the effects of roads, overall, extended to further distances than edge effects associated with natural gas wells, obligate species had more habitat affected by infrastructure than generalist species and shallow gas wells affected more habitat than did oil wells, due to their greater density on the landscape. Additionally, obligates, on average, were negatively affected by proximity to edge where as generalists were more productivity closer to edge. Reducing fragmentation caused by roads, minimizing the spread of non-native vegetation and management of cattle around gas wells could improve habitat quality for these focal species.
GIS, Landscape ecology, Prairie, Songbirds, Shallow gas wells, Oil wells, Alberta, Canada, Nesting sucess, Abundance, Clutch size