Predatory tourism is regularly blamed for smothering historic cities, littering world-famous landscapes with garbage, and killing local life in tourist spots around the world. Now tourists who have sex are behind the gradual destruction of a beach and nature reserve in Europe.
The Dunes de Maspalomas Special Nature Reserve on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria is known for its sand dunes that spread out behind its lighthouse perched on the waterfront, and regularly tops the list of things to see on the island.
Its dunes, which have been legally protected since 1982, are one of the last remaining dune systems in Europe, providing a resting point for birds that migrate between Africa and Europe.
But now it’s providing a different kind of resting place, with tourists heading to the dunes to enjoy themselves.
A new article in the Journal of Environmental Management – called “Sand, Sun, Sea and Sex with Strangers, the ‘five S’s: Characterizing cruising activity and its environmental impacts on protected coastal dunes” – surveys, for the first time, the environmental impact in the coastal reserve that is being used as a cruise area.
The researchers compiled 298 “sex spots” on the beach, in a total area of more than two square miles, mostly between “bush and dense vegetation” and nebkhas – dunes that rise around the vegetation. They studied them during May 2018, a period that included the local Gay Pride festival.
The sex of tourists and the “cruise overruns” have a “direct” impact not only on the nebkhas, but also on eight native plant species, three of which are endemic, that they have encountered.
Tourists step on vegetation, remove plants and sand, make their own “nests” – even surrounding them – and dump garbage, including cigarettes, condoms, toilet paper and cans. They also use the dunes as a bathroom, as researchers have found “places with urine and defecation.”
The more remote the sex location, the more it had been used and the more garbage was left in it, the researchers noted. Although authorities leave garbage bags in some of the larger areas, they were usually full.
Even in the “exclusion zone” of the dunes – which is completely off limits to the public, where other areas are restricted – 56 sex points were found.
As a result of tourist activities, there was a “complete abandonment” of environmental education in the reserve, according to the study. The reserve was originally created with education as a “primary activity”.
In addition, Gran Canaria’s giant lizards, a popular sight in the Canary Islands, “died after eating condoms left behind by pleasure seekers,” wrote Patrick Hesp, one of the report’s authors, in an article for The Conversation.
Receiving up to 14 million visitors a year, Gran Canaria is a popular tourist destination for the gay community, with visitors from the US, UK and Germany among the main markets.
While the authors are quick to emphasize that “there is no intention to criticize some of the LGBTI community” and that it wasn’t just LGBTQ visitors who had sex on the dunes, they note that “cruising is a regular activity” in Maspalomas.
Coastal dune systems are a crucial part of the marine landscape, but they have been used to attract tourism around the world – with devastating consequences, the authors write.
“Its degradation, in many cases, has been a direct consequence of the development of tourism”, reads the article.
As Hesp wrote in his separate article: “We’re not calling for an end to public sex – but we want people to be aware of the damage it can cause.”
A couple who have sex on the beach, he wrote, is one thing; but having hundreds converging on the same area every day damages the dunes as much as driving off-road does.
*This article has been translated. Read the original in English
Reference: CNN Brasil