CAN VERTEBRATE DIVERSITY BE MAINTAINED IN A FRACKED LANDSCAPE?
Michelle Tedder and Tim O’Connor
South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)

 

Abstract

The Karoo shale basin stretches across two thirds of South Africa and Lesotho. Since the lifting of the South African Government moratorium on the mining of shale gas in September 2012, drilling exploration rights have been granted for an area totalling 228 450 km2. This extraction of gas through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale deposits is expected to have negative environmental impacts within the Nama-Karoo and grassland biomes. Although water-related impacts have been accorded considerable attention, impacts on biodiversity have not. This study examines the possible impact on maintaining populations of seventeen mammal, fifteen bird and seventeen reptile species occurring in the Nama-Karoo and the northern KwaZulu-Natal grasslands. Direct habitat loss resulting from the construction of well pads and roads will be exacerbated by indirect habitat loss resulting from local pollution, movement, noise, and lighting disturbance. In particular, increases in illegal harvesting and roadkill are expected for many of these vertebrate species. A desktop study using population models compared population persistence under current conditions to persistence should fracking occur. The model was run for a fracking area of 1 000 km2 and over a period of 30 years, the duration of a fracking production licence. Overall, fracking increased the rate of population decline with numerous species becoming locally extirpated within 30 years, many in less than 15 years. In conclusion, many vertebrate species will be lost from the Nama-Karoo and the northern KwaZulu-Natal grasslands from the additional pressure of fracking-related activities on these populations.

 

Presentation Topic

CAN VERTEBRATE DIVERSITY BE MAINTAINED IN A FRACKED LANDSCAPE?
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