In this paper, an energy parameter based on the concept of the M-integral is proposed for describing the fracture behavior of a multi-cracked solid subjected to nonconservative and nonuniform crack surface tractions. By using the M-integral with a suitably chosen closed contour, one can evaluate the 'surface creation energy' (SCE) required for creation of the stressed cracks. Also, it is demonstrated that the property of path-independence holds even under the action of crack surface tractions. Therefore, the singular stress field in the near-tip areas is not directly involved in the calculation so that a complicated finite element model around the crack tips is not required in evaluation of the M-integral. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.