Emerging conservation challenges and prospects in an era of offshore hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation

Salit Kark*, Eran Brokovich, Tessa Mazor, Noam Levin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Globally, extensive marine areas important for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem functioning are undergoing exploration and extraction of oil and natural gas resources. Such operations are expanding to previously inaccessible deep waters and other frontier regions, while conservation-related legislation and planning is often lacking. Conservation challenges arising from offshore hydrocarbon development are wide-ranging. These challenges include threats to ecosystems and marine species from oil spills, negative impacts on native biodiversity from invasive species colonizing drilling infrastructure, and increased political conflicts that can delay conservation actions. With mounting offshore operations, conservationists need to urgently consider some possible opportunities that could be leveraged for conservation. Leveraging options, as part of multi-billion dollar marine hydrocarbon operations, include the use of facilities and costly equipment of the deep and ultra-deep hydrocarbon industry for deep-sea conservation research and monitoring and establishing new conservation research, practice, and monitoring funds and environmental offsetting schemes. The conservation community, including conservation scientists, should become more involved in the earliest planning and exploration phases and remain involved throughout the operations so as to influence decision making and promote continuous monitoring of biodiversity and ecosystems. A prompt response by conservation professionals to offshore oil and gas developments can mitigate impacts of future decisions and actions of the industry and governments. New environmental decision support tools can be used to explicitly incorporate the impacts of hydrocarbon operations on biodiversity into marine spatial and conservation plans and thus allow for optimum trade-offs among multiple objectives, costs, and risks.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1573-1585
Number of pages13
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Society for Conservation Biology.


  • Deep sea
  • Fossil fuels
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Marine biodiversity
  • Marine conservation
  • Natural gas
  • Offshore drilling
  • Oil


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