Location

USU Eccles Conference Center

Event Website

http://www.restoringthewest.org/

Streaming Media

Abstract

Dryland regions of the western U.S. contain abundant energy resources, whether they are traditional oil/gas or alternative sources such as solar or wind. With energy exploration and development comes surface disturbance and other impacts. The impact of energy exploration, such as running seismic lines, is associated with soil surface disruption that can be quite severe at a local level. Energy development brings a host of other concerns that need to be considered and likely mitigated. All energy developments require cleared sites and roads, and most require pipelines and transmission lines as well. Large areas of vegetation are cleared for solar farms. These features result in a loss or fragmentation of habitat, or reduced use of a given habitat (e.g., pronghorn avoiding roads). Surface disturbance can facilitate invasion by exotic plants, which can then spread from

the disturbed area. Local hydrologic cycles are altered which can affect downstream vegetation and water sources. Albedo of the soil surface is increased, which can decrease local precipitation. Wind farms are known to directly kill birds and bats, with unknown impacts to invertebrates. Many installations also often have lights, which can attract (insects) or repel wildlife. Dust from energy exploration and development is of huge concern, given its off-site impacts. Wind tunnel data show that most desert surfaces produce little sediment under typical wind speeds until disturbed. However, vehicle-disturbed soils, whether on or off roads, produce much more dust. As surface disturbance, plant invasion, and drought are expected to increase in the future, an increase in dust production can be expected as well. Deposition of dust on the snowpack darkens the surface, increasing snowmelt by 50 days or more and exposing soils to evaporation. Earlier germinating plants increase transpiration of soil water as well. Models suggest this can reduce Colorado River flows by 2-7% annually. In addition, earlier runoff means a reduction in late season water, which affects humans, wildlife and riparian plants.

Jayne Belnap, US Geological Survey, 2290 Resouce Blvd., Moab, UT, 84532, jayne_belnap@usgs.gov

Jayne Belnap has been a scientist with the Department of Interior since 1987. She received her two undergraduate degrees (in biology and natural history) from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1980; her Masters of Science (Ecology Department) from Stanford University in 1983 and her PhD (Botany and Range Department) from Brigham Young University in 1991. Her dissertation was on the effects of coal- fired power plants on the physiological functioning of biological soil crusts and rock lichens. Over the past 20 years, she has published 105 peer-reviewed articles and books on soil crusts that include a BLM technical reference (coauthored with 3 other BLM scientists) and the only comprehensive book available on the topic. She is recognized by scientists around the globe as one of world’s authorities on soil crusts. Dr. Belnap has been invited by many governments to train their scientists in soil crust ecology, including those of South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mongolia, China, Siberia, Australia, and Iceland. She travels extensively throughout the U.S., training BLM, NPS, USFS, BIA, DoD, and DOE staff and managers on management of soil crusts. She is past Chair of the Soil Ecology chapter of Ecological Society of America, as well as the President-Elect of the Soil Ecology Society.

Share

COinS
 
Oct 31st, 10:30 AM Oct 31st, 11:00 AM

The Energy Footprint on the Landscape and What this Means for Plants, Animals, and Ecosystems

USU Eccles Conference Center

Dryland regions of the western U.S. contain abundant energy resources, whether they are traditional oil/gas or alternative sources such as solar or wind. With energy exploration and development comes surface disturbance and other impacts. The impact of energy exploration, such as running seismic lines, is associated with soil surface disruption that can be quite severe at a local level. Energy development brings a host of other concerns that need to be considered and likely mitigated. All energy developments require cleared sites and roads, and most require pipelines and transmission lines as well. Large areas of vegetation are cleared for solar farms. These features result in a loss or fragmentation of habitat, or reduced use of a given habitat (e.g., pronghorn avoiding roads). Surface disturbance can facilitate invasion by exotic plants, which can then spread from

the disturbed area. Local hydrologic cycles are altered which can affect downstream vegetation and water sources. Albedo of the soil surface is increased, which can decrease local precipitation. Wind farms are known to directly kill birds and bats, with unknown impacts to invertebrates. Many installations also often have lights, which can attract (insects) or repel wildlife. Dust from energy exploration and development is of huge concern, given its off-site impacts. Wind tunnel data show that most desert surfaces produce little sediment under typical wind speeds until disturbed. However, vehicle-disturbed soils, whether on or off roads, produce much more dust. As surface disturbance, plant invasion, and drought are expected to increase in the future, an increase in dust production can be expected as well. Deposition of dust on the snowpack darkens the surface, increasing snowmelt by 50 days or more and exposing soils to evaporation. Earlier germinating plants increase transpiration of soil water as well. Models suggest this can reduce Colorado River flows by 2-7% annually. In addition, earlier runoff means a reduction in late season water, which affects humans, wildlife and riparian plants.

Jayne Belnap, US Geological Survey, 2290 Resouce Blvd., Moab, UT, 84532, jayne_belnap@usgs.gov

Jayne Belnap has been a scientist with the Department of Interior since 1987. She received her two undergraduate degrees (in biology and natural history) from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1980; her Masters of Science (Ecology Department) from Stanford University in 1983 and her PhD (Botany and Range Department) from Brigham Young University in 1991. Her dissertation was on the effects of coal- fired power plants on the physiological functioning of biological soil crusts and rock lichens. Over the past 20 years, she has published 105 peer-reviewed articles and books on soil crusts that include a BLM technical reference (coauthored with 3 other BLM scientists) and the only comprehensive book available on the topic. She is recognized by scientists around the globe as one of world’s authorities on soil crusts. Dr. Belnap has been invited by many governments to train their scientists in soil crust ecology, including those of South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mongolia, China, Siberia, Australia, and Iceland. She travels extensively throughout the U.S., training BLM, NPS, USFS, BIA, DoD, and DOE staff and managers on management of soil crusts. She is past Chair of the Soil Ecology chapter of Ecological Society of America, as well as the President-Elect of the Soil Ecology Society.

http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/rtw/2012/october31/3