Scooby’s doo: Why your dog’s poop & pee is an environmental hazard

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Your dog may appear adorable, but Fido could be devastating the environment.

Pups doing their business in the great outdoors can be connected to ecosystem damage and a loss of biodiversity through over-fertilization, a new scientific study published in “Ecological Solutions and Evidence” has found.

“Dogs appear to be a non-negligible, substantial and underestimated source of nutrients into peri-urban ecosystems…but this disturbance and its associated effects on biodiversity have been often neglected so far,” researchers in Ghent, Belgium, wrote about the “significant” effects of the apparently under-studied dog urine and feces.

After analyzing the, erm, natural effects dogs had on four nature reserves surrounding the European city, the soiled soil contained high clusters of both nitrogen and phosphorus — two environment-influencing elements.

Dogs doing their business can be ruff on the environment, a new study found.
Dogs doing their business can be ruff on the environment, a new study found.
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“Nutrient inputs from canine urine and feces can have important effects on soil nutrient concentrations…In areas with a lot of dog walkers, and especially near walking paths, elevated soil (Phosphorus) and (Nitrogen) concentrations are found and stable isotope analyses confirmed dogs as the source,” researchers wrote.

They continued: “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.”

Dogs can be depositing up to 24 pounds (11 kilograms) of nitrogen and 11 pounds (5 kilograms) of phosphorus per 2.47 acres (1 hectare) annually, the researchers found.

High concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen are found in dog waste, according to the study.
High concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen are found in dog waste, according to the study.
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Although the puppy pee and poop was only reported around Ghent, researchers believe this phenomena is relevant to the surrounding natural areas of the estimated 87 million dogs living in Europe along with the 72 million in the U.S.

But how exactly does Scooby’s doo hurt the ecosystem?

“Higher nutrient levels lead to increased plant growth, mostly by a limited number of nutrient-demanding species that will outcompete specialists, particularly by taking away the available light, causing plant species loss and homogenization of plant communities,” the report hypothesized.

Dog doo and pee can affect plant life in natural areas, a study found.
Dog doo and pee can affect plant life in natural areas, a study found.
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It was also outlined specifically how dog urine has a negative effect on plant life due to canines often eating so much meat, according to researchers: “Because dogs are carnivores and mainly fed with a protein-rich diet, the nutrient concentrations in urine are relatively high…Specifically, within the urine patches (containing Nitrogen) deposition has a strong effect on plant biodiversity and ecosystem processes (e.g. carbon and nutrient cycling) on a microscale.”

There are some suggestions to reduce the harmful effects of dog droppings on the environment.
The protein-rich diet of dogs is cited as having a negative impact on the environment.
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If this news has your own stomach churning, study author Pieter De Frenne told Business Insider some tips on how pet owners can mitigate the gastrointestinal, environmental burden.

It’s best to have dogs try and go before entering a park, he advised. And, of course, “pick up the feces, because then you remove 97% of the phosphorus and half of the nitrogen.”

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