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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 #397952

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

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Title: Using the TSS-RESTREND methodology to diagnose post-reclamation vegetation trends on the Western Slope of Colorado

item Di Stefano, Sean
item KARL, JASON - University Of Idaho
item DUNIWAY, MICHAEL - Us Geological Survey

Submitted to: Remote Sensing
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/8/2024
Publication Date: 5/13/2024
Citation: Di Stefano, S.F., Karl, J.W., Duniway, M.C. 2024. Using the TSS-RESTREND methodology to diagnose post-reclamation vegetation trends on the Western Slope of Colorado. Remote Sensing. 1:48-62.

Interpretive Summary: Expansion of oil and gas development on public lands over the past couple of decades has increased areas of disturbance on landscapes. These disturbances can degrade habitats and increase areas for exotic plants to invade. Reclamation efforts on these disturbance areas involve management actions to re-establish prior plant communities, but monitoring these reclamation efforts over time has been limited. We used satellite data (LandSat) to assess plant community changes from 1984 to 2020. Analyses indicated that plant communities were not fully re-established in these areas of disturbance, and that management actions used at the disturbance sites had limited effectiveness. Application of remote sensing imagery through satellite data can provide monitoring feedback over time to provide managers with progress, or lack thereof, to meeting goals of re-establishing plant communities on these disturbed areas on landscapes.

Technical Abstract: There is an increasing concern in the US for the current and long-term environmental impacts of oil and gas development such as severe habitat fragmentation, disruption of plant-water relationships, increased soil toxicity, and altered hydrology of landscapes. One of the primary areas of concern has been on public lands where the government is under a multiple use mandate to manage for all the ecosystem services a site has to offer. There is also a need to conduct monitoring on public lands affected by oil and gas development to quantify the impact of disturbance and ensure that management goals are being met. There are no standardized quantitative benchmarks or monitoring methods though for measuring long-term oil and gas reclamation effectiveness on public lands in the U.S. The methods and standards that do exist vary widely by location, are usually qualitative, and are often subjective to an individual reclamation manager’s opinion. This situation makes it difficult for the private industry to meet reclamation goals over large landscapes and across multiple regulatory entities. To detect and quantify post-reclamation plant community change, we used the TSS-RESTREND methodology, a time series analysis method, and compared documented management actions on reclaimed well pads before and after development. In the time series analysis, differences in reclamation management had a high impact on reclamation outcomes making it difficult to discern typical plant community structural changes at different reclamation ages. Additionally, there was an overall lack of plant community recovery post-reclamation. The inconsistency in management combined with the lack of plant community recovery causes the Bureau of Land Management to be vulnerable to litigation with operators, other agencies, and the public. We recommend that a set protocol be created for documenting reclamation that would include reclamation practices, plant community progress before the final inspection, and the conditions of approval used for releasing operators from environmental liability. Having a standardized and greater amount of documentation will allow for knowledge and expertise to be passed on to future reclamation managers and improve reclamation outcomes.