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  • Writer's pictureSteeple Woods

Unintended consequences

Research published in the British Ecological Society journal highlights the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in dog waste and the effects that they can have on natural ecosystems.

"It is clear that the levels of fertilization by dogs estimated here can potentially exert negative effects on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of species-rich vegetation that are often pursued in forest and nature management."

The study of the numbers and behaviour of dogs on walks was carried out in Belgium...

...but the findings are equally applicable on our reserve.

The researchers counted the number of dogs passing through key points such as entrances and path intersections, reviewed existing research (who'd blame them?) into the nutrient concentrations of solid and liquid canine waste.

They then estimated the net effect of the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus deposited and concluded it was enough to alter the mix of plants in a given area. Nettles and hogweed were two of the main beneficiaries and other niche species can be killed.

It's no surprise that the authors recommend the "bag it and bin it" approach to manage the problem.

"Our findings also underpin that a ‘stick and flick’ strategy to reduce the nuisance of treading in dog faeces (as currently considered by, e.g., the Forestry Commission in Britain) is to be avoided."

The volunteers are always pleased to see dogs (and their walkers) on the reserve.

Generally, they are a respectful bunch and use the dog waste bins provided at the main Steeple Lane and Count House Lane entrances.

Now they can be safe in the knowledge that they are helping the plants as well as other reserve visitors when they "bag it and bin it".


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