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Maspalomas dunes to become extinct?

July 27, 2016
Maspalomas dunes under threat

Everybody knows the Maspalomas dunes. The dunas de Maspalomas have shifted postcards aplenty since the tourist explosion of the 1960s onwards. But it’s this explosion which places them in a perilous position.

Maspalomas Dunes will become a stony plain with a bit of sand if the annual losses from Punta de la Bajeta are not addressed. Noted enginerer Raúl Medina Santamaría warned: “Lose 40,000 cubic meters of sand a year and the Maspalomas dunes will only survive for another 90 years.”

  1. Maspalomas dunes are suffering
  2. Maspalomas dunes and the grains of time
  3. Maspalomas dunes and tourism

1. Maspalomas dunes are suffering

Maspalomas dunes are very ill and the only medicine capable of saving them is one called sand. The poorly condition of the dunes is the result of a negative sedimentary balance. Naturally produced sand is currently a lot lower in quantity than the grains lost by the seabed. The dunes which are only 250 years old are gradually dying and in less than 100 years the undulating mounds will become a stony plain with a bit of sand.

This conclusion is the result of many years of studies explained civil engineer Raúl Medina Santamaría at this year’s Maspalomas Summer University. Medina Santamaría is a director of Cantabria Institute of Environmental Hydraulics as well as a professor of Hydraulic Engineering at the University of Cantabria. He was previously a director of the Research Group of Oceanographic and Coastal Engineering (1996-2007).

Will the Maspalomas dunes become history?
Maspalomas dunes to die?

2. Maspalomas dunes and the grains of time

According to Medina, “since its inception, the Maspalomas dunes have had a circuit.” “This is a movement by which the sand coming from Playa del Inglés travels through the dunes to Maspalomas and from here, driven by ocean currents, ends up in the Punta de la Bajeta, a very deep chasm.”

“In that abyss” he added, “40,000 cubic metres of sand are lost every year , while natural replenishment from the Pasito Blanco seabed amounts to about 2,000 cubic metres; the difference is huge.”

3. Maspalomas dunes and tourism

But the dune system, which enjoyed a stable life until the 1960s, “began to suffer a setback after the new apartments and hotels went up.” “They have become a screen and the wind which before crossed above the plateau now drifts towards the dunes, accelerating the transport of sand to Maspalomas. This means a further 40,000 cubic metres of sand are lost each year with the dunes ever decreasing”, revealed Medina, who warns that the dunes are set to disappear in about 90 years.

A scientific solution is to replace sand from Punta de la Bajeta. “This is a viable maintenance action, but Maspalomas will never again have the dunes of the sixties” he concluded.