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Keywords:

  • Appalachian Basin;
  • biodiversity;
  • forest fragmentation;
  • hydraulic fracturing;
  • salinization;
  • shale gas

High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HVHHF) for mining natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales is widespread in Pennsylvania and potentially throughout approximately 280,000 km2 of the Appalachian Basin. Physical and chemical impacts of HVHHF include pollution by toxic synthetic chemicals, salt, and radionuclides, landscape fragmentation by wellpads, pipelines, and roads, alteration of stream and wetland hydrology, and increased truck traffic. Despite concerns about human health, there has been little study of the impacts on habitats and biota. Taxa and guilds potentially sensitive to HVHHF impacts include freshwater organisms (e.g., brook trout, freshwater mussels), fragmentation-sensitive biota (e.g., forest-interior breeding birds, forest orchids), and species with restricted geographic ranges (e.g., Wehrle's salamander, tongue-tied minnow). Impacts are potentially serious due to the rapid development of HVHHF over a large region.