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

Chalfoun, A. D. Responses of vertebrate wildlife to oil and natural gas development: patterns and frontiers. Current Landscape Ecology Reports.


Purpose of Review:
I reviewed the recent literature (2014–2019) focused on the responses of avian, mammalian and herpetofaunal species to oil and natural gas development, a widespread and still-expanding land use worldwide. My primary goals were to determine whether generalities in species’ responses to development have emerged, and summarize remaining gaps in knowledge. To do so, I evaluated the directionality of a wide variety of responses in relation to taxon, location, development type, development metric, habitat type, and spatiotemporal aspects.
Recent Findings:
Studies (N = 70) were restricted to the U.S. and Canada, and taxonomically biased towards birds and mammals. Longer studies, but not those incorporating multiple spatial scales, had a higher probability of detecting significant responses. Negative responses of all types were present in relatively low frequencies across all taxa, locations, development types, and development metrics, but were context-dependent. The same species often displayed distinct responses across studies or development metrics.
The state of knowledge about wildlife responses to oil and natural gas development has developed considerably, though many biases and gaps remain. Studies outside of North America and that focus on herpetofauna are lacking. Tests of mechanistic hypotheses for effects, long-term studies, assessment of response thresholds, and experimental designs that isolate the effects of different stimuli associated with development, remain critical. Moreover, tests of the efficacy of habitat mitigation efforts have been rare. Finally, investigations of the demographic effects of development across the full annual cycle were absent for non-game species, and are critical for the estimation of population-level effects.