Methods to Reduce Water Pollution From Horse Manure

High concentrations of manure in paddocks can degrade local water quality and upset water’s natural balances.

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Methods to Reduce Water Pollution From Horse Manure
High concentrations of manure in paddocks can degrade local water quality and upset water's natural balances. | Photo: iStock
As a “natural” part of this world, horses might seem like a positive addition to the ecosystem. But civilization and modern management systems can dampen these benefits and could even lead to water pollution, recent study results from Sweden have revealed.

“Yes, horses are natural; so in that case you need to make sure that you’re ‘using’ them in a natural system,” said Masud Parvage, PhD, of the Department of Soil and Environment at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, in Uppsala. High concentrations of feed and horse manure—in paddocks, for example—can degrade local water quality and upset the water’s natural balances.

In their study, Parvage and his fellow researchers investigated how phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon leach into runoff rainwater from two different kinds of horse paddocks: sand lots and dirt (clay) lots. Phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon concentrations in water are standard indicators of water cleanness, and scientists have previously established acceptable thresholds of these concentrations. Essentially, the lower the concentrations, the cleaner the water.

The researchers tested samples from various areas of the paddocks in a laboratory setting with simulated rainfall, Parvage said

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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