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ASSESSMENT OF SHALE GAS DEVELOPMENT ON MACROINVERTEBRATE COMMUNITY STRUCTURE IN PENNSYLVANIA’S MARCELLUS SHALE REGION

Water withdrawal and physical habitat alternations associated with shale gas extraction pose potential threats to aquatic organisms. Unconventional gas well densities are especially high in Pennsylvania, where over 60% of the state’s streams are within the prolific Marcellus Shale Formation. This study, led by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, tests the hypothesis that stream habitat and the abundance of sensitive macroinvertebrate taxa are diminished downstream of unconventional gas wells. In spring and fall of 2013 and 2014, macroinvertebrate samples were collected from 51 sites across the Marcellus Shale region, 20 of which had unconventional gas wells upstream. Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not find evidence that shale gas development has widespread impacts on stream habitat or macroinvertebrate community structure. Stream embeddedness, sedimentation, and flow status were similar between sites with and without wells. Macroinvertebrate community composition, including relative abundance and taxonomic richness of pollution and sediment sensitive taxa, was similar across sites with and without gas wells. Our findings suggest that shale gas development in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region has not substantially altered stream habitat and macroinvertebrate community structure.

Cassie Graham (Primary Presenter/Author), Indiana University of Pennsylvania , cassiemgraham117@gmail.com;


David Janetski ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Indiana University of Pennsylvania, janetski@iup.edu;


Eric Chapman ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, echapman@paconserve.org;


Alysha Trexler ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, atrexler@paconserve.org;