A US-based study has warned that the expansion of shale gas extraction, through methods such as fracking, is outpacing research on the issues around the practice, including spills leading to contamination and the environmental impacts.
Fracking has grown rapidly in the US but remains a relatively new source of energy in the UK. However, the UK government is increasingly placing an emphasis on the fledgling sector despite polls showing the public are typically opposed to its development.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves blasting rocks with water and chemicals, which then fractures the rock to release the natural gas or oil contained within them. The practice has been linked to increased risk of earthquakes, health issues, methane leakages and water contamination.
Eight international authors contributed to the new study, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. It calls for scientists, fracking industry representatives and policymakers to collaborate to ensure research is carried out and damage to the natural world from shale gas development is minimised.
According to the researchers, one of the greatest threats to animal and plant life is the cumulative impact of rapid widespread shale development. They explain that each individual well, contributes to air, water, noise and light pollution.
The study notes that since 2007, shale-drilling operations have increased by more than 700%, but the industry’s effect on nature and wildlife is not well understood.
Viorel Popescu, one of co-authors of the study from the Simon Fraser University’s biological sciences department, said, “Think about the landscape and its habitats as a canvas. At first, the few well pads, roads and pipelines from shale development seem like tiny holes and cuts, and the canvas still holds.
“But if you look at a heavily developed landscape down the road, you see more holes and cuts than natural habitats. Forests or grasslands that were once continuous are now islands fragmented by a dense web of roads, pipelines and well pads. At what point does the canvas fall apart?”
The lack of accessible and reliable information on spills, wastewater disposal and fracturing fluids were also highlighted as “greatly impeding improved understanding”. Of the 24 US states with active shale gas reservoirs just five maintain public records on this issue.
Maureen Ryan, a research fellow in the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and co-author of the research, commented, “Past lessons from large scale resource extraction and energy development – large dams, intensive forestry, or biofuel plantations – have shown us that development that outpaces our understanding of ecological impacts can have dire unintended consequences.”
Similar comments around needing additional research into the impacts, and in particular effects on human health, of fracking have been made by British researchers.
Photo: Simon Fraser University Public Affairs and Media Relations via Flickr
Take our 2014 reader survey and you could win an iPad, Kindle or donation to a charity of your choice.
Like our Facebook Page
Emerging Research In Seagrass Restoration: What Does The Future Hold?
Sustainable Bites: How To Make Your Diet Eco-Friendly
Coffee Farms & Cloud Forests: Colombia’s New Eco Initiatives
Electric Cars: Are They Worth The Switch?
Maximizing the Efficiency of Deliveries: Strategies for Sustainable Businesses
The Rise of Sustainable Cloud Computing
Navigating Towards A Greener Future: Sustainable Practices In Maritime
5 Reasons That Diamonds Can Be Excellent Green Investments
Why Should We Invest in Eco-Friendly Homes?
Eco- Friendly Homes Integrating Environmental Consciousness into Modern Real Estate
Can Eco-Friendly Businesses Embrace VPNs to Bolster Cybersecurity?
The Future of Sustainability In The Logistics Industry
Fun Activities That Will Help Kids Appreciate Nature More
Doubt No More: Electric Vehicle Charging Dynamic Load Balancing Is The Answer
Eight Different Eco-Friendly Developments in the Food Industry
UK Lags EU in Installing Heat Pumps to Slow Climate Change
5 Key Areas to Look at When It Comes to Business Sustainability
Addressing Leadership Challenges in Green Entrepreneurship
Holding Eco-Friendly Coins is Greener and More Profitable
Eco-Friendly Airlines Use Weather Models to Make Safer Flights
- Features2 months ago
What is the Eco-Friendliest Option to Wash Your Dishes?
- Environment7 months ago
6 Home Improvements You Can Make to Help the Environment
- Environment11 months ago
How to Ensure Your Home’s Eco-Friendly During Construction?
- Business10 months ago
The Pulp & Paper Industry is Reaching its Sustainability Goals