Piling stones affects the environment and beaches of Formentera

Stones stacked in cap de Barbaria, Formentera

Many people pile stones in nature as if they were preparing a Zen garden, or as a way to “leave their mark” on the place they have been or simply to be fashionable.

However, piling stones means disturbing the natural environment and that has consequences for said environment. In this post we are going to explain why you should not pile stones on the beaches and coves of Formentera or other places, and the reasons to avoid this practice.

Stones stacked in cap de Barbaria, Formentera
Stones stacked at the Barbaria Lighthouse, Formentera

Why do people stack stones in nature?

There are many reasons why people pile stones in nature, especially in those places they visit as tourists. In general, stacking rocks seems like a less aggressive and more environmentally friendly way than carving your name into the rock with a key or painting graffiti, and many people do it without thinking about the consequences.

However, sometimes stacking stones has had a specific meaning and use, as we will see below.

To mark paths

This has always been one of the reasons why humans have made stone pylons, along with religious rituals and the like.

Stacking stones to mark paths or crossings is a free and quick way to mark, since:

  • You don’t need classic signage, which involves preparation, transportation and installation
  • Stones are heavy, unlike other materials such as branches that can be moved by the wind.
  • Stones are everywhere: almost anywhere you go in nature you will find stones available
  • Stones do not deteriorate over time: a stone does not decompose and does not deteriorate

As relaxation therapy

Stacking stones can be relaxing, we will not deny it. The task of searching for stones, creating a pile, finding the balance point of each piece until building a tower can offer us a brief feeling of “what a job well done that I have achieved.

For simple fashion

As we have said before, during the 80s graffiti was fashionable, or recording your name in the places you visited with a key or tip-ex type corrector. But right now “what’s in fashion” is stacking stones.

Reasons NOT to stack stones on the beach or nature

Signage “no stacking of stones” at Es Trucadors beach

Surely you have come across in Formentera or other places with piles of stones piled up in a “I was once here” style. It may seem like an aesthetically beautiful practice, even a form of therapy before enjoying a beautiful sunset in Formentera, but this practice has dire consequences for the flora and fauna of the place. Let’s see why.

We promote soil erosion

If we pile up the stones that are scattered on the ground, we expose more of that soil’s surface to erosion caused by wind and water. In the case of beaches, both erosive agents are present practically 24 hours a day, which causes more soil to disappear when we pile up stones that are naturally distributed over the land.

We alter the life of animals and plants

Surely it has happened to you to lift a stone and find the typical “pill bugs“. Well, these insects are just one of the many examples of “use” that nature gives to stones in the ground.

These insects, along with hundreds of other species, are a clear example of an organic matter recycling system: they feed on dead remains of plants and other animals, especially during twilight and night, and during the day they rest under a relatively fresh rock.

In this way these insects are contributing to the recycling of organic matter in the natural environment. If you lift the stones you deprive them of their shelter, and if you also pile up said stones, you are leaving them without other shelters that can be used.

Do you pile up stones from walls? So you’re dismantling them

If you are stacking stones from dry stone walls then you are also damaging those walls. Okay, you say stacking stones is bad, so what about walls? Aren’t they also harmful?

Are dry stone walls not the same as stacked stones?

The answer is no, dry stone walls differ from simple stone pylons in that:

  • Walls do provide hiding places for insects, vertebrates (lizards, for example) and plants, and create micro-ecosystems within themselves.
  • Dry stone walls stop the wind, so they help consolidate the soil: grass and plant seeds can root and fix better to the ground if the erosive action of the wind is reduced


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