Direct and indirect effects of petroleum production activities on the western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) as a surrogate for the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus)

Research paper by Scott M. Weir, Ami Knox, Larry G. Talent, Todd A. Anderson, Christopher J. Salice

Indexed on: 09 Mar '16Published on: 07 Mar '16Published in: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry


The dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) is a habitat specialist of conservation concern limited to shin oak sand dune systems of New Mexico and Texas (USA). Because much of the dunes sagebrush lizard's habitat occurs in areas of high oil and gas production, there may be direct and indirect effects of these activities. The congeneric Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) was used as a surrogate species to determine direct effects of 2 contaminants associated with oil and gas drilling activities in the Permian Basin (NM and TX, USA): herbicide formulations (Krovar and Quest) and hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S). Lizards were exposed to 2 concentrations of H2S (30 ppm or 90 ppm) and herbicide formulations (1× or 2× label application rate) representing high‐end exposure scenarios. Sublethal behavioral endpoints were evaluated, including sprint speed and time to prey detection and capture. Neither H2S nor herbicide formulations caused significant behavioral effects compared to controls. To understand potential indirect effects of oil and gas drilling on the prey base, terrestrial invertebrate biomass and order diversity were quantified at impacted sites to compare with nonimpacted sites. A significant decrease in biomass was found at impacted sites, but no significant effects on diversity. The results suggest little risk from direct toxic effects, but the potential for indirect effects should be further explored. Environ Toxicol Chem 2015;9999:1–8. © 2015 SETAC