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Coastal Machair Habitats to Benefit from EU Funding

23rd November 2021
Machair is a Gaelic word meaning
Machair is a Gaelic word meaning "fertile plain", but the word is now also used in scientific literature to describe the dune grassland unique to Western Scotland and north-west Ireland Credit: Wikimedia

Conservation of Ireland’s coastal machair habitats will benefit from some €7.4 million in funding, Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan has said.

Some €5.7 million of the total sum of €7.4 million will be drawn from the new EU LIFE project, Mr Noonan said.

The project will work with Donegal, Mayo and Galway farmers to improve ecological conditions for breeding waders and pollinators, he said.

The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action.

The “LIFE On Machair” project aims to work with farmers and landowners to improve the conservation condition of Ireland’s machair habitats and the ecological conditions for breeding waders and pollinators within project sites, Noonan explained.

He said an integrated approach will provide “education, guidance, and informed management policies for stakeholders, and deliver concrete conservation actions within a network of machair and wader Natura 2000 sites”.

The project extends over a total machair system area of about 3,500 hectares, he said.

Machair is defined as a coastal habitat characterised by lime-rich, wind-blown sand plains unique to the north and west of Ireland and Scotland.

“The typical flower-rich vegetation of machair is traditionally maintained through low-intensity livestock grazing, but is susceptible to pressures from recreational activities and overgrazing,” Noonan’s department said.

“Machair ecosystems provide an important refuge for pollinators and threatened breeding wader bird species, such as dunlin, lapwing and redshank,” it said.

“Post-Brexit, the entire EU land cover of the habitat occurs in Ireland, meaning the conservation of machair in Ireland is of significance on a European scale,” the department pointed out.

The LIFE on Machair project will focus on nine special areas of conservation and four special protection areas in counties Donegal, Mayo and Galway.

A voluntary results-based payment scheme will be linked to the quality of the habitat, placing the landowner’s skills, expertise and knowledge central to the development of this project, the department said.

“The award of this funding is a very positive development in addressing the urgent need for conservation and restoration of biodiversity in our coastal areas,” Noonan said.

“I am hopeful that this project will help conserve Ireland’s unique machair systems whilst also supporting coastal rural communities, providing employment opportunities and an important financial injection,” he said.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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