Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Sciences

Department

Interdepartmental Program

First Advisor

Yeqiao Wang

Abstract

Activities carried out by resource extraction industries in and adjacent to protected areas have increased the risk to biodiversity conservation in different parts of the world. Oil and natural gas developments in the Albertine rift, one of Africa’s biodiversity hotspots, have raised concerns about the potential impacts to wildlife populations and the associated land-cover change. The influence of oil and gas industrial activities on the spatial distribution of wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park was examined by conducting wildlife surveys along 2-km long transects that radiated away from well pads and access roads. The position of large mammal sightings were recorded along transects at 50 m intervals using a Global Positioning System. The study tested the hypothesis that the occurrence of species would be constant as a function of distance from the well pads and access roads.

The study compared the average frequency of sightings per survey at 50 m intervals for distances of 0-500 m and 1,500-2,000 m from the well pads and access roads. Species response curves were fitted using General Additive Models to explore any trends along spatial and temporal gradients. The results suggested that there was indirect habitat loss at different temporal and spatial scales due to avoidance behavior. The study found that elephants, Uganda kob, hartebeest, buffalo and giraffes showed increased habitat avoidance around well pads while trends for oribi and warthog suggested a level of tolerance behavior towards well pad activity. Spatial response curves illustrated species-specific differences in thresholds to disturbance stimuli from the well pads. The shape and direction of spatial and temporal species response curves suggested a shift in habitat use which varied with level of activity.

The use of spatial temporal gradients was proposed in modeling different scenarios of hydrocarbon developments in the park, however the use of other covariates that affect species distribution could be considered. Spatial temporal models enable stakeholders in the oil and gas industry effective scheduling of hydrocarbon activities so as to minimize species’ disturbance. Sustainable development requires access to affordable energy as well as conservation of biodiversity which is a significant challenge to the different stakeholders in the oil industry in the Uganda. Oil and gas development has the potential to provide funding for conservation, and therefore, integrating biodiversity considerations into oil and gas development management plans will be useful in promoting conservation in the region.

Share

COinS