But the forest IS covered with feces! You just might not recognize it!
In the bush (and in your backyard if you are patient enough) fecal matter gets broken down in a few different ways:
1. You call them bottom feeders, I call them recyclers.
Organisims called Detritivores (e.g. earth worms, beetles, and flies) ingest and digest organic material from other organisms and speed up the process of decomposition. Another group of organisms, Decomposers (e.g. fungi and bacteria) break down organic material using biochemical processes, no internal digestion required. (x)
2. Coprophagy (or why I’m glad I’m not a hindgut fermenter)
Some animals ingest the fecal material of other animals. Now they might do this because they specialize in fecal matter consumption (like our friend the Dung Beetle who is a lovely Detritivore), or perhaps it is in order to gain bacteria required to process plant matter in their environment. (x) Some species, like those in the order Lagomorpha (i.e. hares, rabbits, and pikas) have very short digestive tracts and so they will re-ingest their own fecal material so they can metabolize all of the nutrients within. (x) These are called hindgut fermenters. (x)
3. Don’t drink the water (unless you know it’s treated)
The environmental conditions like the temperature, moisture, and oxygen content of the area will affect the decomposition rate. Hint: This is why it seems like there is dog poo EVERYWHERE after that first big snow melt!
As feces break down they act like every other organic (and inorganic) compounds do, they become a part of the ecosystem they are in. Now this could be through the ways I listed above, or by being integrated into the terrestrial cocktail (if you don’t think poo is in soil please talk to a gardener), or by joining the watershed. That’s right friends, the water is full of poo.
This is why modern conveniences like water filtration plants are amazing… but something we seem to take for granted.
Did you know that approximately ONE IN NINE people world wide do not have access to clean water?!? How about 3.4 million people die each year from water sanitation related issues. Of which, the majority of illnesses are caused by fecal matter! (x)
So yes, dear Anon, poop is everywhere. Not always in those neat little scat droppings in the forest, or the cow pies in the field, but it’s in the soil, it’s in the water, it’s even in the air in what is called a fecal mist for up to two hours after you flush the toilet!!! (Who’s gonna put the lid down now?) (x, x)
Clearly it isn’t going to kill you… but I would still wash your hands regularly, avoid cross contamination in the kitchen, and don’t go drinking water from a stream or anywhere without the appropriate sanitation / sterilization pills, filters, or other treatment methods.
You’ve gotta love a good scat chart.