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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #391784

Research Project: Adaptive Grazing Management and Decision Support to Enhance Ecosystem Services in the Western Great Plains

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Title: A review of restoration techniques and outcomes for rangelands affected by oil and gas production in North America

Author
item WALSH, KATHRYN
item ROSE, JACKSON - UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA

Submitted to: Ecological Restoration
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/23/2022
Publication Date: 12/22/2022
Citation: Walsh, K.B., Rose, J. 2022. A review of restoration techniques and outcomes for rangelands affected by oil and gas production in North America. Ecological Restoration. 40(4):259-269. https://doi.org/10.3368/er.40.4.259.

Interpretive Summary: Drilling for oil and gas on rangelands generates environmental changes that are corrected by restoration activities. This paper describes the research that has been conducted on restoring rangelands following oil and gas production, including restoring soils, re-establishing vegetation, and preventing or mitigating any surface or water contamination. Reviewing all studies together reveals the most promising restoration techniques that promote effective, timely, and less costly outcomes. The paper closes with a discussion of potential ecosystem service benefits from restoration, as well as resources needed to complete restoration on an extensive scale, such as labor, equipment, and site-appropriate seeds.

Technical Abstract: Rangelands of the American West host over 600,000 oil and gas production sites. Domestic oil and gas extraction expanded during the last two decades, creating restoration needs. This review article synthesizes the growing body of literature on restoring arid and semi-arid rangelands of the U.S. and Canada following oil and gas production, including restoring soils, re-establishing vegetation, and preventing or mitigating any surface or water contamination. Existing studies reveal that even soils on treated sites are permanently changed by oil and gas production. However, certain in situ treatment techniques result in less bare ground and increased site revegetation on contaminated sites. Various reseeding techniques are effective, and research results promote the use of diverse, native, locally adapted seed, including plant species known to be better suited to specific post-production conditions. Research suggests that less grazing at restoration sites might generate better restoration outcomes than prolonged moderate or heavy grazing during the full season. Open questions remain regarding: (1) techniques for successfully remediating soil after oil and brine spills; (2) the use of cover crops to accelerate recovery of a perennial plant community suitable to the site; and (3) the effects of cattle grazing on restoration outcomes. Resources needed to complete restoration on an extensive scale are also discussed, including economic and labor requirements, as well as potential ecosystem service benefits.