Forest cover changes due to hydrocarbon extraction disturbance in central Pennsylvania (2004–2010)

<p>The state of Pennsylvania has a long history of oil and gas extraction. In recent years with advances in technology such as hydraulic fracturing, hydrocarbon sources that were not profitable in the past are now being exploited. Here, we present an assessment of the cumulative impact of oil and gas extraction activities on the forests of 35 counties in Pennsylvania and their intersecting sub-watersheds between 2004 and 2010. The assessment categorizes counties and sub-watersheds based on the estimated amount of change to forest cover in the area. From the data collected we recognize that although forest cover has not been greatly impacted (with an average loss of percent forest coverage of 0.16% at the county level), landscape structure is affected. Increase in edge forest and decrease in interior forest is evident in many of the counties and sub-watersheds examined. These changes can have a detrimental effect on forest biodiversity and dynamics.</p>