Animals & Wildlife Magazine

Fracking: A Threat to Wildlife?

By Frontiergap @FrontierGap

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is commonly known as, has been found to have a potentially devastating effect on wildlife habitats throughout the UK, according to research that was jointly commissioned by leading wildlife and countryside groups.

Fracking: A Threat to Wildlife?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

You may be asking what fracking precisely is. Well, fracking is a drilling technique that is designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock, which is deep below the Earth’s surface. A high-pressure water mixture – made up of water, sand and chemicals – is then directed at the rock to release the gas that lies within. It is estimated that the amount of cubic feet of shale gas that may be recoverable underneath parts of northern England is in the trillions, which (you’d think) would significantly contribute to the UK’s future energy supply.

However, with this (potentially) extra supply of energy comes the aforementioned side effect to wildlife. The head of energy and climate change at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Harry Huyton, told BBC News of the serious potential risk that fracking can have on the environment. "There are risks associated with using lots of water, with causing the accidental contamination of water, but also from the infrastructure that is required by the industry. This could mean lots of well pads all around the landscape. All of these could have an impact on wildlife.”

The report ‘Are We Fit to Frack?’ proposes that there should be limits to reduce the potential impact of fracking on the environment and suggests for “no frack zones” to be set up across the country’s most sensitive conservation areas. Huyton continues, "We would like the country's most special sites to be frack free. We think that's the reasonable thing to do at the outset of this industry. These areas are very special and also very vulnerable to disturbance and pollution. Why not, from the beginning, say that these areas are out of bounds."

As alluded to by Huyton, industrial processes generally produce an increased risk of pollution, which can detrimentally affect areas. For the fracking process to function, the contractors have to pour lots of saline solution and chemicals down in to the boreholes. This means that if there are accidents or cracks in the pipe work, chemicals can leak and run into lakes and rivers, contaminating them. As a result, the surrounding wildlife that relies on these resources would be severely handicapped as they will not be able to drink from the toxic water – a life to nearly all creatures in the wild. The US has already experienced this mishap and it is a major concern in pristine environments that are scattered throughout the UK – like the Lake District.

Coupled with the anticipated noise and light pollution to the surrounding area that would be caused by the drilling at the plants, species that are very sensitive to disturbances of this kind could be affected. Bats and some species of migratory birds, along with other country dwelling animals such as owls and eagles could be on the end of this, too. However, with the strict regulations that are currently in use, there seems to be enough to protect the wildlife and the environment. Nevertheless, close monitoring is needed to continue regulating this matter effectively.

At the end of March 2014, a more comprehensive environmental study into the scale of shale reserves and its potential impacts will be published and available to the public by the Department for Energy and Climate Change. The government’s consideration to expand fracking to more than half of the UK will therefore be considerably influenced by the findings of the study.

Find out more about Frontier'sEnvironmental Conservationprojects.


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