Oil and natural gas development in the western US has resulted in significant land surface disturbance and habitat fragmentation. While habitat fragmentation is often associated with loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, that is generally only true if fragmentation is equivalent to habitat loss. In many of Wyoming’s oil and natural gas fields, reference sites are already in semi-natural conditions due to domestic livestock grazing or suppression of natural disturbances like fire. Several years of research from Wyoming’s oil and gas fields suggest interim reclamation efforts may lead to higher functioning ecosystems compared to pre-disturbed or adjacent reference sites. We will present data on soil carbon recovery, vegetation composition and diversity, and insect response to reclamation with a focus on pollinators. While well pads are typically judged against regulatory criteria based on reference conditions, our data suggest reclamation sites; although in different successional stages than reference communities, often have higher ecosystem function than reference ecosystems. This data may help future policy and reclamation practice to consider improving landscapes after development.

Primary Author/Conference Presenter:
Michael Curran
PhD Student
University of Wyoming
Laramie, Wyoming, USA

Dr. Peter Stahl, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY