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  • Writer's pictureNikki Latham

Farmers Take Ownership Of Nitrogen Targets In Dorset’s Poole Harbour

Farmers in Dorset's Poole Harbour catchment are aiming to take responsibility for the nitrogen usage, and become the most efficient.
Poole Harbour as a Special Protection Area (SPA), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Ramsar site, has been seeing a deterioration in the water quality that affects wildlife too, as an increase in nutrients are entering the harbour waters.
The amount of nitrogen entering the harbour has more than doubled, from around 1,000 tonnes/year in the 1960s to around 2,300 tonnes/year now. As a result, the harbour’s mudflats have become covered in green algae, which has smothered sea grass and saltmarsh, impacting on wetland birds and other ecosystems and wildlife.
Local farmers are aiming to help by reducing their nitrogen losses from their soils and developing new schemes to help meet their ambitions. It is not all in the hands of the farmers as Wessex Water, local authorities and general public all need to play their part too. However, agriculture contributes the largest source of nitrogen to the area and significant phosphorus too.
The new limits have been set for the farmers and those levels are set for 2023 to allow time to plan these reductions. However, the farmers do need to report their compliance and nutrient loss now and newly-appointed Agricultural Officers will be keeping an eye on the progress of the farmers.
Nikki Hiorns, Manager for Natural England said: “Poole Harbour is a unique and special place for wildlife and people. Everyone wants to keep it that way so setting these new tighter water quality targets is an important start to restoring water quality in the harbour and improving the catchment. Reducing the nutrients entering the catchment and restoring the harbour is achievable, but only by continuing to work with farmers and other stakeholders.”
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