|Scottish Machair project
The Western Isles are a chain of small islands off the north-west coast of Scotland and contain over a third of the world’s machair (calcareous grassland areas which are often also cultivated for fodder) – a priority habitat designated under the EU Habitats Directive. The machair is cultivated for grass and corn fodder for cattle and sheep and its biodiversity value is a direct result of traditional crafting methods. Key species such as corn buntings and corncrake depend on this unique and diverse management regime.
Without continued crofting, the machair would lose its biodiversity value. Currently a LIFE + project called, Machair LIFE +, aims to demonstrate that traditional crafting practices have a sustainable future. By engaging in management agreements with crofters the project has shown these traditional techniques benefit biodiversity.
The success of the project will help to secure the immensely important conservation value of the unique machair habitat, 70% of which is covered by the project. The project objectives are to:
So far this project has developed over 60 land Management Agreements with crofters.
This project demonstrates how important High Nature Value farming systems, such as machair, are to biodiversity. It is therefore important that any future reform of CAP increases its support to these important areas.
Machair Life is supported by the European Union LIFE+ scheme, and managed by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) and the Scottish Crofting Federation (SFC)
Chris Bailey, Chris.Bailey(at)rspb.org.uk