Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: West Virginia
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

West Virginia Project

Regionwide songbird response to Marcellus gas well and infrastructure development

July 2013 - August 2018


Participating Agencies

  • Southern Regional Education Board

Extraction of natural gas from Marcellus shale has increased exponentially in the central Appalachians. We will quantify how the size, shape, age and placement of gas well pads and pipelines in the landscape impact abundance and diversity of forest songbirds across the Marcellus shale region. Our analyses will potentially identify thresholds of habitat and landscape metrics beyond which birds are negatively impacted and quantify how far edge effects from well pads extend into the surrounding forest. We will randomly select a sample of well sites from landscapes with high and low density gas well development and also will sample mature forest reference areas not impacted by Marcellus development. We will use standard protocols to quantify avian, vegetation, and landscape metrics and will develop statistical models to relate bird densities and abundance to the habitat and landscape metrics. These results can inform conservation professionals as well as industry regarding effects of Marcellus development on forest birds and will provide baseline data that can be used to monitor bird populations and assess effects over a longer period of time. The results will also inform management recommendations regarding pad shape, size, and placement that minimize impacts to forest interior birds and will inform restoration of pipelines to maximize habitat improvement for the early successional suite of species.

Research Publications Publication Date
Farwell, L.S., P.B. Wood, R. Dettmers, and M. Brittingham. 2020. Threshold responses of songbirds to forest loss and fragmentation across the Marcellus-Utica shale gas region of central Appalachia, USA. Landscape Ecology 35:1353–1370. April 2020
Farwell, L.S., P.B. Wood, J. Sheehan, and G.A. George. 2016. Shale gas development effects on the songbird community in a central Appalachian forest. Biological Conservation 201:78-91. July 2016
Farwell, L.S., P.B. Wood, D.J. Brown, and J. Sheehan. 2019. Proximity to unconventional shale gas infrastructure alters breeding songbird abundance and distribution. Condor 2019:1–20. DOI: 10.1093/condor/duz020 June 2019