The machair (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [ˈmaxɪɾʲ]; sometimes machar in English) refers to a fertile low-lying grassy plain found on some of the north-west coastlines of Ireland and Scotland, in particular the Outer Hebrides. Two distinct types exist:
- A type of sand-dune pasture, subject to agricultural cultivation, which prevails in wet and windy conditions;
- The land between a beach and the area where sand encroaches on peat bogs further inland.
Machairs largely owe their fertility to the fact their sand has a high seashell content- sometimes as high as 90%. This sand is blown inland, acts to neutralize the acidity of the peatbogs and results in the fertility of the grassland.
Machairs have received considerable ecological and conservational attention, chiefly because of their unique ecosystems. They can house rare carpet flowers, such as Irish Lady's Tresses, orchids and Yellow Rattle, along with a diverse array of bird species including the Corn Crake, Twite, Dunlin, Common Redshank and Ringed Plover, as well as rare insects such as the northern colletes bee. Some machairs are threatened by erosion caused by rising sea levels as well as by recreational use of vicinity beaches.
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- Wildlife Hebrides - wildlife in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
- Living Landscape Series - Grasslands - Creating Grasslands
- Action plan for Machair
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