By Claire Gordon • 12 November 2021 • 12:19
"Dunas De Maspalomas" (CC BY 2.0) by Mark Wordy
According to a new wildlife and nature study conducted in Spain, there is a significant problem that is blighting one of its most beautiful coastlines. The Dunas de Maspalomas Special Nature Reserve, on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, is known for its wild sand dunes and beautiful lighthouse and regularly is number one on the list of things to see on the island. The dunes have been legally protected since 1982 and are one of the last remaining shifting dune systems in Europe. Migrating birds use the spot to rest on their trips between Europe and Africa.
The dunes are being studied for other reasons than bird migration currently. A new paper in the Journal of Environmental Management — “Sand, Sun, Sea and Sex with Strangers, the ‘five S’s. Characterizing ‘cruising’ activity and its environmental impacts on a protected coastal dunefield” – looks for the first time at the environmental impact on the coastal reserve being used as a cruising area.
The researcher found and listed 298 “sex spots” on this area of the coast, in a space covering two square miles. They mainly looked at “bushy and dense vegetation” and nebkhas, which are dunes that wad up around vegetation. The study took place during May 2018, a period that included the local Gay Pride festival. The tourists’ sex, and “cruiser trampling,” impact directly not only on the nebkhas, but also on eight native plant species, three of which are endemic, they found.
Tourists have been making their own ‘nests’ in the dunes, trampling the vegetation and dumping waste such as condoms, toilet paper and cans. The more remote the spot, the more it was frequented for sex on the beach and the more rubbish was found. Although bags for trash are provided to the public they were often full already. There has been said to have been a “complete abandonment” of the “primary activity” of the dune reserve, which was created with environmental education in mind.
Coastal dune systems are a crucial part of the marine landscape, but have been used to attract tourism around the world — with devastating consequences, the authors write. “Their degradation, in many cases, has been a direct consequence of tourism development,” reads the paper. As Patrick Hesp, one of the authors, wrote in his separate article: “We’re not calling for an end to public sex — but we do want people to be aware of the damage it can do.” One couple having sex on the beach, he wrote, is one thing; but having hundreds converge on the same area every day damages the dunes as much as off-road driving does.
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