Toxic Poo

Rufus, time for walkies!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Let’s go, boy – time to do your DUTY! Once we’re outside among the trees, it’s potty break. Dog poop has chemicals – like nitrogen and phosphorus – that make plants grow. So should I pick it up … or leave it …?

Enter Pieter De Frenne from Ghent University in Belgium and team. 

They counted the number of pet dogs that visited four nature reserves near Belgium. Then, they calculated how much phosphorus and nitrogen each potty break added to the soil. Finally, they created computer models to estimate the overall nutrients produced. 

Results? Dog waste produced ten pounds of nitrogen and four pounds of phosphorus per acre. Yes those chemicals help plants, but that Is WAY too much! When owners pick up after their pups? Half of the nitrogen and almost all phosphorus – GONE!

Turns out, dog poo could OVER-fertilize parks and cause damage to the environment! 

So be a good neighbor – pick, bag, and bin!

Reference: De Frenne, P., Cougnon, M., Janssens, G. P. J., & Vangansbeke, P. (2022). Nutrient fertilization by dogs in peri-urban ecosystems. Ecological Solutions and Evidence, 3, e12128.