A study has explored the damage public sex has on the dunes of Gran Canaria, one of Spain’s Canary Islands. Rare plants have disappeared, and jellyfish-eating Gran Canary giant lizards have died due to ingesting the condoms left by those looking for some public pleasure.
In the Journal of Environmental Management, researchers examined the discarded waste found in the dunes and its impact on the surrounding ecosystem. For the article — titled Sand, Sun, Sea and Sex With Strangers, the 'Five S's. Characterizing 'Cruising' Activity and Its Environmental Impacts on a Protected Coastal Dunefield” and published earlier this year — scientists investigated almost 300 popular sex areas across two square miles in the Dunas de Maspalomas Special Nature Reserve, according to The Conversation.
That area has been legally protected since the early 1980s, according to Attitude.
“Unfortunately, [the dunes] are being loved to death,” wrote study co-author Patrick Hesp, a professor at Flinders University in Australia who studies coastal science.
Hesp wrote that he and his team found damage to 10 different plant species, including three of which are found only in the dunes.
The area had attracted up to 14 million visitors before the COVID-19 pandemic. Hesp explained that the Canary Islands are often visited for their LGBTQ-friendly beach resorts – 15% of the visitors to the island are men going to those resorts.
Researchers found that 5,800 square meters of the dunes had been altered due to people looking for sex. Cigarette butts and condoms have become an issue and so has the creation of so-called “nests,” which are sites for sex.
While isolated sex isn’t a problem, Hesp wrote, it’s the cruising attracting hundreds of people a day. “It’s similar to the impact of 4WD driving, which may have a relatively low impact on dune ecosystems if vehicle numbers are low, but leads to major erosion and habitat destruction when vehicle numbers are high.”
The local government has started to clean up the dead vegetation and some resorts have begun discussing cruising with their guests, all in an effort to save the unique dunes on the island.
“We’re not calling for an end to public sex – but we do want people to be aware of the damage it can do,” Hesp said.