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18 June 2014
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Grasslands | North Uist

Colourful floral carpet

North Uist beach

The Hebridean machair is the last stronghold of the Corncrake. Twite, Dunlin, Redshank and Ringed Plover also thrive on the machair grasslands.

North Uist

Machair is a Gaelic word that describes an extensive low lying fertile plain.

Almost half of all Scottish machair occurs in the Outer Hebrides and it is one of the rarest habitat types in Europe.

"Machair" is so important in ecological and conservational terms, that it has now become a recognised scientific term.

Different authorities give the term different definitions: a type of sand dune pasture that is subject to local cultivation and has developed in wet and windy conditions; or the whole system, from the beach to where the sand encroaches onto peat further inland.

North Uist beachCarpet of flowers

The machair land is home to rare carpet flowers, such as Irish Lady's Tresses, Orchids, and Yellow Rattle.

The Hebridean machair is also the last stronghold of the Corncrake. Twite, Dunlin, Redshank and Ringed Plover also thrive on the machair land.

There are over 17,000 pairs of waders breeding on the Uist and Barra machair alone - the most numerous being the Pewit or Lapwing.

Machair sand has high shell content, sometimes 80 or 90%, and is found only in the north west of Britain and Ireland.

In the Hebrides, it is found mainly down the west coast and is most prominent in the Uists, Barra and South Harris.

Marram grass solidifies these mobile sands and encourages soil growth further back in the dune system.

However, the threat of erosion is greater than ever with rising sea levels, increased levels of Atlantic storms and recreational beach use.

 

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