Persistence and developmental transition of wide seismic lines in the western Boreal Plains of Canada

Integrated Landscape Management Program, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta., Canada.
Journal of Environmental Management (Impact Factor: 2.72). 03/2006; 78(3):240-50. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2005.03.016
Source: PubMed


This study examined the fate of seismic lines utilized in oil and gas exploration in Canada's western Boreal Plains. It retrospectively followed the persistence, recovery and developmental transition of seismic lines established between the 1960s and the mid-1970s through to 2003. We examined lines that passed through three forest types; aspen, white spruce, and lowland black spruce. In general, the recovery rates of seismic lines to woody vegetation were low. After 35 years, 8.2% of seismic lines across all forest types had recovered to greater than 50% cover of woody vegetation. Only the upland forest types recovered; aspen and white spruce. Most seismic lines ( approximately 65% at 35 years) remained in a cleared state with a cover of low forbs. The most common transition for seismic lines was to tracked access ( approximately 20% at 35 years). Transition to other anthropogenic developments such as roads, pipelines, buildings, and timber harvest blocks was 5% after 35 years. The pulse of industrial activity initiated in the mid-1990s greatly increased the transition rate of seismic to tracked access for a short period of time. The discussion focused on natural and anthropogenic factors that hinder recovery and on the management directions that would facilitate greater recovery rates.

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Available from: Stan A Boutin
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    • "It was surprising that time since disturbance was not a stronger predictor of regeneration on its own. The decadal resolution of time since disturbance may have contributed to this result, however, a number of previous studies have found differential rates of recovery along seismic lines (Revel et al., 1984; Lee and Boutin, 2006; Bayne et al., 2011), suggesting that age alone is going to be a poor proxy for predicting line recovery in heterogeneous boreal forests. An interaction between time since disturbance and depth-to-water (Model 3, Table 2) may therefore better account for low recruitment in wet sites than using time alone. "
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    ABSTRACT: Mapping of oil reserves involves the use of seismic lines (linear disturbances) to determine both their location and extent. Conventional clearing techniques for seismic assessment have left a legacy of linear disturbances that cause habitat fragmentation. Little is known, however, about how local and landscape factors affect natural regeneration patterns of trees and shrubs on seismic lines that facilitate mapping and future projections of regeneration patterns. To understand factors affecting early forest regeneration and to predict future trends in regeneration of legacy seismic lines we used LiDAR, forest stand databases and a disturbance inventory of conventional seismic lines to model seismic line regeneration to a 3 m height in a 1806 km2 area in northeastern Alberta, Canada. Regeneration to 3 m was inversely related to terrain wetness, line width, proximity to roads (as a proxy for human use of lines), and the lowland ecosites. Overall, terrain wetness and the presence of fen ecosites had the strongest negative effect on regeneration patterns; the wettest sites failed to recover even after 50 years post-disturbance. Predictions of future regeneration rates on existing lines suggested that approximately one-third of existing linear disturbance footprints in this boreal landscape will remain un-regenerated 50 years later resulting in persistent habitat fragmentation. Model predictions estimating regeneration probability are particularly valuable for estimating current and future forest regeneration trajectories on linear disturbances which are a conservation concern and a focus for restoration and planning by government, industry and conservation organizations.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Biological Conservation
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    • "For most of the industrial features related to energy extraction, 40 years extends beyond the present day from the original year of disturbance, so it was assumed that these features never recovered in the model. This choice of recovery time for oil and gas features is consistent with previous research in the study area (MacFarlane 1999; Lee and Boutin 2006; Osko and MacFarlane 2001; Van Rensen 2014). The recovery time for forest harvests was set to 15 years based on the overall site conditions and the leading tree species of the study areas, using site index equations for northern Alberta ecosites (Beckingham and Archibald 1996a, 1996b). "
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    ABSTRACT: Resource development can have significant consequences for the distribution of vegetation cover and for species persistence. Modelling changes to anthropogenic disturbance regimes over time can provide profound insights into the mechanisms that drive land cover change. We analyzed the spatial patterns of anthropogenic disturbance before and after a period of significant oil and gas extraction in two boreal forest subregions in Alberta, Canada. A spatially explicit model was used to map levels of anthropogenic forest crown mortality across 700 000 ha of managed forest over a 60-year period. The anthropogenic disturbance regime varied both spatially and temporally and was outside the historical range of variability characterized by regional fire regimes. Levels of live forest crown within anthropogenic disturbances declined and edge density increased following oil and gas development, whereas patch size varied regionally. In some places, anthropogenic disturbance generated profoundly novel landscapes with spatial patterns that had no historical analogue in the boreal system. The results illustrate that a shift in one sector of the economy can have dramatic outcomes on landscape structure. The results also suggest that any efforts to better align cumulative anthropogenic disturbance patterns with the historic baseline will almost certainly require a concerted and collaborative effort from all of the major stakeholders. © 2015, National Research Council of Canada. All Rights Reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Canadian Journal of Forest Research
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    • "This information could be useful for environmental assessment study on accumulative impacts. Although the trend has been a reduction of width, seismic lines were typically 5–8 m wide and were created by clearing the vegetation with bulldozers during the early 1950s to 2000 (Lee and Boutin 2006). Narrow seismic lines were originally assumed to return to the original land cover state, however, observations of time series Landsat imagery in 4 sites indicated that most seismic lines in the vegetated area remained clear throughout the study period of 1984–2013, which is consistent with Lee and Boutin's (2006) finding that many seismic lines are still persistent after 35 years. "
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    ABSTRACT: Mapping linear disturbances, including pipelines, roads, and seismic lines created by resource exploration, traditionally relies on very high-resolution remote sensing data, which usually limits results to small operational areas. With increased availability of low-cost medium-resolution satellite data, complete information of linear disturbances may be monitored and reconstructed from processing time series images from more than 30 years archival data. In this study, we propose a novel approach to incorporate spectral, spatial, and temporal information for mapping and characterizing linear disturbances based on time series Landsat imagery. The mapping process involves 4 steps: line detection based on a multiscale directional template, line updating based on reappearance frequency, line connection using the Hough transform, and linear disturbance characterization. The proposed method was tested and evaluated over 4 sites in Alberta, Canada, with various linear densities for detecting and reconstructing linear disturbances from 1984–2013 using time series Landsat imagery. The results obtained by processing time series Landsat imagery have shown improved accuracy in detecting linear disturbances over that from single or multiple Landsat images. It is concluded that the strategy of integrating information from time series imagery has the potential to lead to improved operational mapping of linear disturbances.
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