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It takes years for soil to return to normal at gas drilling sites

Soil reclamation is a method of recovering the natural balance of soil. After the installation of natural gas wells, for example, soil reclamation efforts are key in to bringing the soil back to a restored state of health. An extensive study on soil reclamation in Wyoming has shown that the effectiveness of reclamation is often obstructed by salt-affected soils, weed invasions, and slow plant establishment.

Jay Norton is a researcher in Soil Science, Agronomy, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wyoming. Norton has been analyzing soil reclamation at three Wyoming production areas, including nine natural gas drilling sites, over seven years.

The study revealed that organic carbon returned to pre-disturbance level in approximately eight years at the site where the soil carbon content was most abundant before drilling started. In more dry and saline sites, however, organic carbon remained lower than pre-disturbance levels in the same time frame.

Next, Norton will examine the conditions needed to re-establish native vegetation at the sites, which may be influenced by climate.

Norton’s soil restoration research will be presented at the Managing Global Resources for a Secure Future annual meeting in Tampa, Florida, as “Soil Changes Before, During, and After Natural Gas.” This important topic will be addressed at the convention on Monday, October 23rd.

The meeting is sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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