By Nick Malawskey
July 21, 2017
While the Marcellus Shale formation has provided a boom for Pennsylvania's economy, it has also provided a boom to another group -- invasive plants.
Researchers at Penn State University on Thursday published a study which looks at the relationship between invasive plants and drilling in the Marcellus Shale region. Their findings: That 61 percent of the well pads studied had at least one invasive non-native plant species present, and that non-native plant cover was greater around well pads than in the surrounding environment.
The researchers said they also found evidence that invasive plants were being introduced and spread via gravel being delivered to well sites, as well as through mud on the tires and undercarriages of trucks traveling to and from well locations.
"Given the fact that, on average, 1,235 one-way truck trips delivering fracturing fluid and proppant are required to complete an unconventional well, the potential to transport invasive plant [seeds or spores] is significant," said lead researcher Kathryn Barlow, a doctoral degree candidate in ecology.
Invasive plants are a thorny issue in Pennsylvania forests, because they can edge out natural species of plants and trees, which can damage the health of a forest.
Their conclusions were based on invasive plant surveys conducted on and around 127 Marcellus Shale gas well pads and adjacent access roads in seven state forest districts in the Allegheny National Forest.
The findings were published in the Journal of Environmental Management.