Spatial heterogeneity in response of male greater sage-grouse lek attendance to energy development

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Abstract

Landscape modification due to rapidly expanding energy development, in particular oil and gas, in the westernUSA, have prompted concerns over how such developments may impact wildlife. One species of conservation concern across much of the Intermountain West is the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercusurophasianus). Sage-grouse have been petitioned for listing under provisions of the Endangered Species Act 7 times and the state of Wyoming alone represents 64% of the extant sagegrouse population in the eastern portion of their range. Consequently, the relationship between sage-grouse populations and oil and gas development in Wyoming is an important component to managing the long-term viability of this species. We used 814 leks from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's lek survey database and well pad data from the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to evaluate changes in sage-grouse lek counts as a function of oil and gas development since 1991.From 1991-2011 we found that oil and gas well-pad density increased 3.6-fold across the state and was associated with a 24% decline in the number of male sage-grouse. Using a spatial and temporally structured analysis via Geographically Weighted Regression, we found a 1-to-4 year time lag between development density and lek decline. Sagegrouse also responded to development densities at multiple spatial neighborhoods surrounding leks, including broad scales of 10 km. However, sage-grouse lek counts do not always decline as a result of oil and gas development. We found similar development densities resulting in different sage-grouse lek count responses, suggesting that development density alone is insufficient to predict the impacts that oil and gas development have on sage-grouse. Finally, our analysis suggests a maximum development density of 1 well-pad within 2 km of leks to avoid measurable impacts within 1 year, and <6 wellpads within 10 km of leks to avoid delayed impacts. © 2014 Gregory, Beck.

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Gregory, A. J., & Beck, J. L. (2014). Spatial heterogeneity in response of male greater sage-grouse lek attendance to energy development. PLoS ONE, 9(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0097132

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