Scotland’s coastal “machair” grasslands at risk from climate change

Machair wildflowers

Flowers of the machair.
Photograph: Mary Anne Macdonald / Isle of Berneray Community Website

The Guardian reports, 23rd May 2014: “The Hebrides and Northwest coast of Scotland are home to 70 per cent of the world’s machair, one of the rarest habitats on Earth and disappearing rapidly with climate change. Machair is unusually fertile grassland along the coast, enriched by winds driving off the Atlantic that blow tiny fragments of seashells over the sand that fertilise the poor soil, creating a rich grassland. By June the machair puts on one of the greatest wildflower displays anywhere in Britain, with astonishing flower colours and fragrances, including common plants such as ox-eye daisies, red clover, harebell, as well as rarities such as a marsh orchid only found in North Uist, the Hebridean spotted orchid, and Irish lady’s tresses. And the plantlife of the machair is also home to dozens of interesting creatures including rare bumblebees, thousands of wading birds and the rare corncrake and corn bunting.

But rising sea levels and violent storms are eroding much of the fragile machair. Half a metre of machair is being washed away, on average, every year on the Isle of Tiree. And this winter the relentless winds, rains and storm surges battered the sandy dunes that help protect much of the machair. It’s reckoned that up to four years’ worth of erosion was done this winter, which may take years to recover from. And this may be the shape of things to come — a recent UN report singled out Scotland’s machair grasslands as one of the world’s habitats most at risk from climate change

Source: The Guardian, 23rd May 2014. For the full text see

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