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The fascinating world of machair


The fascinating world of machair

A unique coastal habitat found in Scotland and the Scottish islands.

The fascinating world of machair

Machair: A Rare Coastal Gem

The fascinating world of machair
 is a Gaelic word that translates to “fertile, low-lying grassy plain.” It’s a remarkable habitat with a rich tapestry of wildflowers and abundant birdlife. Here’s why it’s so special:

  1. Unique Distribution:
    • Machair occurs only on the exposed west-facing shores of Scotland and Ireland. Nowhere else on the globe can you find this distinctive habitat.
    • The best-developed machair landscapes are found on the Uists, Tiree, and Barra, but it also exists on Orkney, Shetland, Lewis, Harris, and some mainland sites.
  2. Formation and Features:
    • Machair is shaped by lime-rich shell sand deposited by the sea thousands of years ago. Powerful winds eroded dunes, spreading the sand inland.
    • Unlike fixed sand dunes, machair has a flat or gently undulating landscape.
    • Variety of Vegetation: Common flowers like red clover, bird’s-foot-trefoil, yarrow, and daisies thrive here. Rarer species include the lesser-butterfly orchid and Hebridean spotted orchid.
    • Wet hollows host iris beds, while damp patches support silverweed and ragged-Robin.
  3. Wildlife and Biodiversity:
    • Invertebrates and Birds: The variety of plants attracts diverse invertebrates, which, in turn, draw birds to feed and breed on the machair.
    • Listen for the corncrake’s distinctive “crex crex” call and spot the elusive bird.
    • Greater Yellow Bumblebee: Machair is the favored habitat of the great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus).
    • Breeding waders, including lapwings and redshanks, thrive here.The fascinating world of machair
  4. Conservation Importance:
    • Human Interaction: The real conservation value lies in how a fairly high human population manages the land. Traditional crofting practices play a crucial role.
    • Low-Intensity Farming: Light cattle-grazing, hay cutting, and rotational crop farming (free of artificial fertilizers or pesticides) have shaped the landscape over millennia.
    • Challenges: Economic pressures have shifted machair management practices, impacting its biodiversity.
    • Agri-Environment Support: To preserve machair, we need continued support through agri-environment funding.Machair
  5. Climate Vulnerability:
    • Machair is low-lying and vulnerable to climate change, especially rising sea levels and storms.
    • Ongoing studies examine the impacts of climate change on this unique habitat.

In summary, machair is not just a habitat; it’s a living landscape shaped by people, wildlife, and centuries-old traditions. Its preservation is vital for biodiversity, cultural heritage, and the beauty it brings to our shores.

Seen by Cecilia Freer at 11:42 AM


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