Description of the material

HARC analyzed the response of ecological integrity of wetland functionality to energy exploration and production operations on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast. A decision support tool that will aid the oil and gas industry in minimizing loss of wetland function during energy exploration and production operations is the end result of this project.

Application/Development

We analyzed impacts of oil and gas exploration and production (e.g. transportation infrastructure, pipelines, and exploration and drilling site impacts) on wetlands, specifically Upper Texas Gulf Coast Wetlands; prioritizing these impacts specific to wetland function (such as coastal flooding mitigation or density of wintering waterfowl). The decision support tool contains land use/land cover classifications, wetland type and function, and prioritization of functions depending on wetland type and production stressors.

Results, Observations, and Conclusions

Our objectives are to prioritize wetland functions dependent on wetland type, wetland location and availability of function; cross-reference these functions with possible energy exploration and production operation impacts on the wetlands and then using this information in a decision support tool that will aid managers in determining best management practices in determining where to drill, technical alternatives to mitigate certain impacts, and choosing the options that will have most mitigation effect given limited financial resources.

Significance of Subject Matter

Wetlands provide many positive benefits to surrounding coastal ecosystems, both terrestrial and aquatic. These environmentally sensitive areas are often found in drilling and exploration territories in the Upper Texas Gulf Coast; providing options to decisions makers in terms of technical alternatives or BMPs will enable resources to be developed in a more environmentally sound manner.

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