Sex on the beach causing 'significant impact' to Canary Islands ecosystem - study

Sex on the beach causing 'significant impact' to Canary Islands ecosystem, study finds.
The sex might be safe for you - but is it safe for the sand dunes? Photo credit: Getty Images

Humans engaging in casual sex at holiday hotspots are contributing to the destruction of fragile sand dune habitats, according to a new study.

The researchers are urging frisky tourists to the Canary Islands to cool it with the coitus after finding their "human activities have a considerable impact on arid dunefields".

They found 10 plant species were impacted on Gran Canaria, a popular gay tourism destination. Eight of those species are native and three are endemic to the hot, dry and saline type of dunes of the Canary Islands.

The study was conducted by experts at the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) of Spain and Flinders University of Australia, published in the Journal of Environmental Management under the title 'Sand, Sun, Sea and Sex with Strangers, the 'five S's'. Characterising 'cruising' activity and its environmental impacts on a protected coastal dunefield'.

"We have no intention to criticise the actions of some of the LGBTI community," says Dr Leví García-Romero, first author of the Journal of Environmental Management article.

"Our fieldwork, collated in geographic information system (GIS), studied 298 sex sports on an area 5763.85m2 of these arid coastal dunefields.

"In this area of Gran Canaria, we found that sex sports in places of bushy, dense vegetation and 'nebkhas' (vegetated dune hummocks) were having a significant impact on the landforms and native plants there, including waste left behind."

Gran Canaria is far from the only sunny holiday destination around the world where people meet to have sex outdoors. There are similar beach locations in many countries, including New Zealand.

The researchers warn beach use and management can result in long-term changes in beach-dune systems.

"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, so future generations can enjoy these ecosystems," says co-author Dr Luis Hernández-Calvento.

"It is also important to highlight how the environmental state of the space affects the user experience and how the environmental management measures taken can balance the socioeconomic long-term interests of the site."

More of the study's data can be viewed via ScienceDirect.