Dog walking 'harms' bird diversity.
Dog walking should be banned in sensitive conservation areas, scientists who have studied the effect the pets have on the environment said on Tuesday.
The presence of the animals leads to a 35 percent drop in wild bird diversity and a 41 percent drop in abundance, according to the Australian study.
Peter Banks and Jessica Bryant, at the University of New South Wales, carried out the study in a woodland 56km north of Sydney. They compared the effect of a person walking a dog on a lead, a lone walker, two walkers together and no walkers at all on birds they observed in the area. They repeated each condition 15 times and used a variety of dog breeds.
They found that bird numbers dropped by 41 percent and diversity by 35 percent after a dog had been walked through the forest, compared with the control condition in which there were no walkers.
This result did not depend on whether the area they studied was popular with dog walkers or not. Ground-dwelling birds were particularly affected, with half of the species in control sites absent from dog-walked sites.
It was not just the presence of dogs that spooked the birds. A person walking through the woods had about half the detrimental effect that a dog walker had, but it made no difference whether there were one or two walkers.
The authors write in the journal Biology Letters: "Conservation managers often ban dog walking from natural areas fearing that wildlife will see dogs as potential predators and abandon their natural habitats, resulting in outcry at the restricted access to public land ... These results argue against access by dog walkers to sensitive conservation areas."
A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: "There is a widely held suspicion that the presence of dogs can be a disturbance. And obviously this study does add weight to that."
Dog walkers deny that their pets are bad for birds. A spokesperson for the Kennel Club said: "The Kennel Club does not consider that dog walking in the countryside in the UK has any detrimental effect on birds provided walkers stick to the rules of the countryside."
（英语点津 Linda 编辑）