LIFE On Machair Reports on Progress

Mar 9, 2024 | Green Architecture

LIFE on Machair is an EU LIFE funded project (LIFE20 NAT/IE/000263) set to run from 2022 – 2028. Machair is a coastal habitat characterised by a species-rich grassland plain, developed on wind-blown sand. This rare and valuable habitat is unique to the north and west of Ireland and Scotland. As weather patterns intensify, it is these delicate systems that protect everything else further inland from high winds and storm surges.

Machair by Aoife Delaney

It is essential that machair ground is grazed, and that the level of grazing allows the proper growth of the flowers, grasses and other plants that bind this light, sandy soil together and that support a range of pollinators. In the tufts and hollows of a healthy machair grassland, ground-nesting birds can safely breed and rear their chicks. Many of the birds and bees of the machair are struggling to survive and breed and are threatened with extinction, as a direct result of the changes that humans have made.

The LIFE on Machair Project has had a busy year learning about these sites from the people who know them best – the landowners, while developing and sharing our scientific knowledge and understanding at the same time. LIFE on Machair is learning more about how these systems are farmed, and how that has changed with modern farming practices and pressures. The project is also concerned with recreational use which is causing increased disturbance to birds. Vehicle tyres and dogs are a threat to eggs and chicks, and it takes very little disturbance to cause a bird to leave the nest long enough for the eggs to cool and a failed breeding season.

Training Day Field Trip

The project team launched a series of workshops in February 2023 and this series is just coming to an end. The workshops involved local stakeholders: farmers, landowners, tourism operators, and local residents. Over 150 farmers signed up to the LIFE on Machair Restoration programme and the complexities of commonages and working in coastal systems continue to be revealed!

The Nest Protection Wardens (NPW) were joined by Project Officers (POs) in: Donegal, North Mayo and South Mayo & Connemara. The POs are essential to carrying out engagement and importantly getting grazing exclusion trial plots and wader protection fences up and running in time for the growing season.

The recruitment of two Community Engagement Officers was finally completed in August 2023, and this will allow for a steadier community engagement programme, to coordinate the communications strategy and the Local Schools Programme. Meanwhile ecologists are busy drafting restoration plans and actions for each of our nine project areas.

Keep an eye on the LIFE on Machair website for updates:

Source of text and images: LIFE on Machair (Main image by Erika Bodnar)

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