Articles

Cumulative Impacts of Oil Fields on Northern Alaskan Landscapes

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Science  06 Nov 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4828, pp. 757-761
DOI: 10.1126/science.238.4828.757

Abstract

Proposed further developments on Alaska's Arctic Coastal Plain raise questions about cumulative effects on arctic tundra ecosystems of development of multiple large oil fields. Maps of historical changes to the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field show indirect impacts can lag behind planned developments by many years and the total area eventually disturbed can greatly exceed the planned area of construction. For example, in the wettest parts of the oil field (flat thaw-lake plains), flooding and thermokarst covered more than twice the area directly affected by roads and other construction activities. Protecting critical wildlife habitat is the central issue for cumulative impact analysis in northern Alaska. Comprehensive landscape planning with the use of geographic information system technology and detailed geobotanical maps can help identify and protect areas of high wildlife use.