Understanding how energy infrastructure affects local biodiversity and soil characteristics is important for informing restoration and management. However, the rapid rate of modern oil and gas development is beyond the limit of current knowledge and mitigation strategies. In a mixed-grass prairie in western Oklahoma, we assessed the presence and directionality of biodiversity and environmental gradients associated with energy development in an observational framework. Specifically, we sampled arthropods, vegetation, soil temperature, and soil moisture on the edge of active oil well pads and at 1 m, 10 m, and 100 m away from the well pad. Though variable, the abundance and biomass of most arthropod orders was lower on the pad and 1 m away compared with 10 m and 100 m away, suggesting that the pad itself negatively influenced arthropods but that these effects were limited in spatial extent. However, vegetation structure and composition varied more extensively. Vegetation height, shrub cover, and warm season grass cover increased sixfold, threefold, and fourfold, respectively, from on the oil pad to 100 m away. Forb cover was 5× higher at 10 m from the well pad than on the pad, 1 m away, and 100 m away from the pad. Soil surface temperature was lower at sites farther from well pads, but we found no relationship between soil moisture and distance from well pad. Well pad effects on arthropods and soil temperature appear to be limited to the pad itself, though long-term changes in vegetation structure extend significantly beyond the well footprint and demand a better understanding of the effectiveness of restoration activities around well pads.
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