Farmers in Galway and across the northwest of Ireland will take part in a €7.4 million project to protect and restore machair habitats.
Machair is a coastal habitat characterised by a plain of lime-rich, wind-blown sand that is 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 can be endangered by overgrazing or recreational use of the land.
The LIFE on Machair project seeks to improve the conservation of machair lands, and the ecological conditions for the species it supports.
These areas are an important ecosystem for pollinators and threatened breeding wader bird species, such as Dunlin, Lapwing and Redshank.
The project has a total budget of €7.4 million, which includes €5.7 million from the European Union LIFE programme for environmental and climate actions.
Working with farmers and landowners in Galway, Mayo and Donegal is central to the project, with funding to incentivise farmers to develop and roll out agricultural management agreements, and take specific conservation measures revegetation and predator control.
It also aims to encourage a more sustainable tourism model for these coastal areas to reduce the negative impacts tourism has on the land.
Minister of State Malcolm Noonan said that this funding will help address the “urgent need” for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity in coastal areas.
“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.”
Along with local landowners and stakeholders, the LIFE on Machair project will involve collaboration between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Teagasc and Fáilte Ireland.