Frisky tourists are damaging Canary Islands sand dunes, say scientists

·2-min read
Gran Canaria’s sand dunes are a popular cruising spot (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Gran Canaria’s sand dunes are a popular cruising spot (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Tourists having casual al fresco sex are damaging sand dune ecosystems in the Canary Islands, according to a new study.

Scientists have looked at the impact of “cruising” on the Dunas de Maspalomas Special Nature Reserve, an area of special conservation on the island of Gran Canaria.

The antics of frisky tourists have impacted vegetated dune hummocks, or nebkhas, and native plants, according to experts from the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) and Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

Entitled Sand, Sun, Sea and Sex with Strangers, the 'five S's': Characterising “cruising” activity and its environmental impacts on a protected coastal dunefield, the study found that 10 plant species were being damaged by people having outdoor sex: eight of which were native and three of which were endemic to the Canary Islands’ specific type of sand dune.

Although the area used in the case study is known as a gay tourism hotspot, the study’s authors made it clear that this was not about singling out a particular group.

“We have no intention to criticise the actions of some of the LGBTI community,” said Dr García-Romero of the ULPGC Institute of Oceanography and Global Change.

“The ultimate intention of this scientific work is to know detailed aspects of the spatial and environmental dimensions of this activity, which may be useful for the management of this protected area and similar ones.”

Flinders University's Professor Patrick Hesp added: “No matter what the human activity, popular coastal tourist locations need to closely monitor ecology and erosion trends.”

Instead, the research, which will be published in in the Journal of Environmental Management in January, calls for better ecosystem management and education on the environmental effects of cruising on dunes.

Study co-author Dr Luis Hernández-Calvento said: ”Incorporating targeted research with tourist location natural resource management can lead to more sustainable action, particularly in areas of large-scale tourism and fragile ecosystems.”

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