Proposed seismic surveys in Arctic Refuge likely to cause lasting damage

by University of Alaska Fairbanks

Photo credit: Matt Nolan

Winter vehicle travel can cause long-lasting damage to the tundra, according to a new paper by University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers published in the journal Ecological Applications.

Scars from seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge remained for decades, according to the study. The findings counter assertions made by the Bureau of Land Management in 2018 that seismic exploration causes no “significant impacts” on the landscape. That BLM determination would allow a less-stringent environmental review process of seismic exploration in the Arctic Refuge 1002 Area.

UAF’s Martha Raynolds, the lead author of the study, said she and other scientists have documented lasting impacts of winter trails throughout years of field research. Their paper, authored by an interdisciplinary team with expertise in Arctic vegetation, snow, hydrology and permafrost, summarizes what is currently known about the effects of Arctic seismic exploration and what additional information is needed to effectively regulate winter travel to minimize impacts.

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