Characterization of ecoanthropic aspects of the Canary Islands' beach-dunes systems as a key for their sustainable management

The tourism is the main economic activity of the Canary Islands, highlighting the "sun and beach" tourism. This mass tourism has been developed around coastal environments, and mainly around sandy systems. The results of three R&D+i (innovation) projects, developed over the past ten years by the research team that present this project (REN2003-05947, SEJ2007-64959 y CSO2010-18150), together with other R&D contract and some academic works, developed in the context of this research line, show how human activity has directly influenced some natural processes in major beach and dune systems of the Canary Islands, such as Maspalomas (Gran Canaria), Corralejo (Fuerteventura) and El Jable (Lanzarote), compromising the functioning of ecosystems and, with it, the survival of one of the main economic resources of the Canary Islands. As it has happened in other parts of the planet, urban development associated with tourism, as well as some equipment and services, and the development of certain activities carried out by users, have generated remarkable transformations in these sedimentary systems. This is due to the high fragility of these systems, due to the natural dynamic interaction of wind, sea and water. In this line, some of the latest research, mentioned above emphasize an issue that until now has not been studied, that regards the beach-dune systems of the Canary Islands: the arid climatic conditions in which they occur, induce greater natural fragility that similar systems have in other regions of the planet (temperate or tropical). In this context, anthropogenic alterations may generate changes in the whole sedimentary systems, sometimes causing irreversible deterioration. In this sense, there is a direct relationship between the intensity and duration of human pressure and the degree of deterioration of the systems. In the case of the Canary Islands, this pressure is maintained throughout the year, due to there are two large tourist seasons, in spring-summer and autumn-winter, being this latter one more relevant from the point of view of the human pressure. There is, therefore, no recovery period for coastal environments, as in the rest of the Spanish and European coasts. Finally, is known that these arid beaches and dunes systems have not been sufficiently studied worldwide, so there are few management background.

Therefore, the measures taken to manage these systems, are copies of those management actions carried out in other nearby systems, commonly at the Mediterranean coast. Given the above, it is necessary policies to promote tourism development in these coastal environments, but from a sustainable approach to ensure the survival of the natural systems that support them. Thus, the aim of this project project is to characterize some natural processes typical of these environments, analyze the influence of human activity on them, diagnose their condition and guide future management based on scientific criteria.

Contact person: 
Luis Hernández Calvento
Funding agency: 
Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad