Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group: Potential Impacts Of Shale Gas Development Forest Fragmentation On Tioga State Forest Birds

By Dr. Robert M. Ross

The Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group is concerned about the ecological integrity of the Tioga State Forest (TSF), headwaters to much of Pine Creek and its many coldwater streams. 

One of those streams with [a High Quality] Special Protection designation is Baldwin Run [in Tioga County], coursing from the top of Oak Ridge on the eastern Asaph sector of the TSF in a northeasterly direction until it turns south to meet Marsh Creek near the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

This stream contributes substantially to the coldwater fisheries status of lower Marsh Creek itself, along with Schoolhouse Hollow, Canada Run, Straight Run, and Asaph Run, all contributing to Pine Creek as well. 

Last year (PCO, Fall 2021) we reported on avian surveys near extensive gas development areas on Oak Ridge close to Baldwin Run’s origin.

Surveys showed a mixed avian community with both generalist and forest-interior species breeding there, a decade after disturbance to the area by gas-development industrialization.

Surveys continue this year in an effort to provide a long-term database to track disturbances to this forest.  [Read the survey.]

Of particular relevance is the work done at Penn State (Barton et al 2016) and elsewhere (Farwell et al 2016) in Pennsylvania’s forests addressing this issue. 

They found that forest-interior species were greatly reduced in numbers within 250m [meters] of such facilities/ infrastructure/clearings, while generalist (synanthropic) species increased there.

Clearly habitat for our forest specialists is being lost on these fragmented landscapes, with huge acreages being affected in some of these forests. 

One fifth of the entire North American breeding population of one of those species, the Scarlet Tanager (see photo of one of these songbirds taken at the site), breeds exclusively in Pennsylvania forests. 

Another forest-interior songbird found in the upper Baldwin Run drainage and suffering habitat loss  is the Yellow-rumped Warbler (see photo).

Two non-forest generalist species, now expanding in the industrialized forest zones and replacing forest-interior species, include Blue Jay and Barn Swallow (see photos). 

These birds highlight ongoing changes to forest communities at the hands of energy development right here in the Pine Creek watershed.

Get into your forest and observe it yourself.

Dr. Robert M. Ross is a retired U.S. Geological Survey Ecologist and can be contacted by sending email to: rmross4@gmail.com

(Photos: Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blue Jay, Barn Swallow.)

Literature Cited:

-- Single Point Seasonal Avian Survey For Baldwin Run Headwaters At Sawdust Trail, Tioga State Forest: Update 2022, Dr. Robert M. Ross, Retired USGS Ecologist

-- Barton, E. P., S. E. Pabian, and M. C. Brittingham. 2016. Bird community response to Marcellus shale gas  development. J. Wildlife Mgmt. 80(7):1301-1313.

-- 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. Biol. Conserv. 201:78-91.

(Reprinted from Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group Winter 2022-23 Pine Creek Observer newsletter.)

Resource Links:

-- DCNR Shale Gas Monitoring Story Map

-- DCNR  Shale Gas Infrastructure Interactive Map

-- DCNR Shale Gas Monitoring webpage

Related Articles - Shale Gas Monitoring:

-- Gov. Wolf Unveils State Forest Action Plan To Address Next 10 Years Of Strategic Initiatives In PA Forests; Shale Gas Development Promotes Forest Fragmentation

-- DCNR Completes Online StoryMap On Monitoring Gas Development Impacts In State Forests

-- DCNR Releases 2nd Monitoring Report On State Forest Shale Gas Drilling

-- DCNR Releases First Report On The Impacts Of Drilling In State Forest Lands

Related Articles:

-- NO SPECIAL PROTECTION: The Exceptional Value Loyalsock Creek In Lycoming County Is Dammed And Damned - Video Dispatch From The Loyalsock - By Barb Jarmoska, Keep It Wild PA [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Has No Exclusion Zones For Water Withdrawals From Any Streams, Including EV Or HQ Streams Subject To Water Quality Antidegradation Rules  [PaEN]

Related Articles This Week:

-- DEP: PA General Energy Cited For More Water Pollution Violations, Blocking The Whole Width Of Loyalsock Creek At Gas Pipeline/Water Withdrawal Construction Site In Lycoming County [PaEN]

-- DEP Permit Notices -- Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities  [PaEN] 

-- Senate, House Pass Massive, 20-Year Taxpayer Subsidies For Natural Gas, Hydrogen And Petrochemical Industries In Hours With No Public Accountability Or Environmental Safeguards [PaEN]

-- Citizens Voice Editorial: State Insists On Paying Polluters  [PaEN]

-- Scranton Times/Republican Herald Editorial: Legislators Like Plastics, Expect More  [PaEN]

-- Bill Goes To Governor Creating Well Plugging Grant Program; Senate, House Again Fail To Address Woefully Inadequate Conventional Well Plugging Bonding  [PaEN]

-- Senate Committee OK’d Bills Rebranding Fossil Fuels As ‘Low Emission,’ Eliminating Incentives For EVs; Fails To End Ban On Raising Conventional Oil & Gas Well Bonding; Reports Out EHB Nominee Sarah Clark  [PaEN]

-- DCNR Leased 176 Acres Of Susquehanna River Submerged Land To SWN Natural Gas Production Company In Susquehanna County For $704,000  [PaEN]

-- Public Herald: Public Records Show PA Has 10,543 Injection Wells Where Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Is Often Used For Enhanced Recovery Of Oil & Gas

-- Penn State Research: PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' Persist Through Wastewater Treatment, May Enter Crops - By Penn State News  [PaEN]

-- A Study Finding Microplastics In 100% Of Exceptional Value, High Quality, Class A Trout Streams Sampled In PA Is Disturbing To Wildlife Advocates  [PaEN]

-- National Fuel Gas Requests PUC To Approve 9.2% Increase In Base Delivery Charge; Separate Cost Of Gas Up 127.8% Since May 2021 [PaEN]

-- PUC Approves 9% Increase In The Basic Monthly Bill For Typical PECO Natural Gas Division Customers; On Top Of An 103.2% Increase In Cost Of Natural Gas [PaEN]

-- Ohio River Valley Institute Blog: Natural Gas Costs Are Principal Driver Of Current Inflation; Increasing Gas Production For Export Also Increases Prices And Volatility

[Posted: October 25, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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