City Hall Blog (archived)

How to protect wildlife from Nitrogen and Phosphorus

By Mandy Smith-Thompson

Nitrogen and phosphorus are big words, and they can have a big impact on our environment. Both nitrogen and phosphorus can be found on the Periodic Table of Elements, where they’re labeled as N and P. They’re everywhere! Plants (leaves and grass clippings), human and animal waste and fertilizers all contain N and P. See, plants require N and P to grow; their roots extract N and P from the soil. Humans and animals eat plants, taking in N and P. Ever heard of using manure to help your garden grow?  And then there’s fertilizer; it’s made to help plants grow, so of course it has N and P in it!

Animal waste, leaves, and grass clippings; sewage spills and leaks; and over-fertilizing lawns can all contribute N and P into local bodies of water through the storm drainage system.

Influx of N and P into the aquatic ecosystem cause oxygen levels to drop, harming fish and other wildlife. Click the following image to enlarge and see what happens:

What can you do to protect aquatic wildlife? Keep grass clippings on your yard to decay naturally, or bag them for collection by the City of Concord. Keep fall leaves out of the street. Compost both leaves and grass clippings for a special treat to your garden. Pick up after pets. Don’t over-fertilize your lawn, and be sure to sweep any stray fertilizer granules off of paved surfaces back into the grass. Never wash them off with water. Do your part to protect wildlife by keeping our waters free of excess N and P!