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Special Areas of Conservation

North Uist Machair

Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Country Scotland
Unitary Authority Highlands and Islands
Centroid* NF781620
Latitude 57.5333
Longitude -7.3792
SAC EU Code UK0019804
Status Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Area (ha) 3039.34
* This is the approximate central point of the SAC. In the case of large, linear or composite sites, this may not represent the location where a feature occurs within the SAC.
Location of North Uist Machair SAC

General site character

  • Tidal rivers, Estuaries, Mud flats, Sand flats, Lagoons (including saltwork basins) (26%)
  • Salt marshes, Salt pastures, Salt steppes (3%)
  • Coastal sand dunes, Sand beaches, Machair (56%)
  • Shingle, Sea cliffs, Islets (2%)
  • Inland water bodies (Standing water, Running water) (2%)
  • Bogs, Marshes, Water fringed vegetation, Fens (4%)
  • Improved grassland (6%)
  • Other arable land (1%)

Download the Standard Data Form for this site as submitted to Europe (PDF <100kb)

Note When undertaking an appropriate assessment of impacts at a site, all features of European importance (both primary and non-primary) need to be considered.

Annex I habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • The saltmarshes of north-west Scotland are usually small, and differ considerably from other saltmarshes in Europe, notably in their morphology, the scarcity or absence of a pioneer zone and the prevalence of the turf fucoid Fucus cottonii in closely-grazed turf. North Uist Machair is one of the larger composite examples. Many species dominant on southern British saltings are completely absent, and much of the expanse comprises common saltmarsh-grass Puccinellia maritima, sea-milkwort Glaux maritima, plantain Plantago spp. and thrift Armeria maritima, with red fescue Festuca rubra and saltmarsh rush Juncus gerardii at higher levels. Transitions to terrestrial habitats tend to be richer in species, featuring silverweed Potentilla anserina and smooth meadow-grass Poa pratensis while transitions to fens have saltmarsh flat-sedge Blysmus rufus and sea arrowgrass Triglochin maritimum. Locally there are also fine transitions to dune and machair, making this one of the most varied of north-western saltmarshes.

  • North Uist contains very extensive areas of both wet and dry machair. The site supports the second-largest extent of machair in the Outer Hebrides. The machair in North Uist is different from that found on South Uist because of local differences in traditional methods of cultivation. A high proportion of the machair on North Uist has been traditionally cultivated or used for rough pasture, although areas of uncultivated machair found at Baleshare and Kirkibost are of interest because of their high species diversity. There is a mosaic of other habitats, with well-developed lochs and fens (e.g. at Balranald Bog) and transition to saltmarsh and sediment flats (e.g. Baleshare and Kirkibost, and Vallay). Machairs Robach and Newton is regarded as the most dynamic system in the Uists. The wet machair supports an unusual population of the southern species sea rush Juncus maritimus, its only occurrence in the Uists.

  • This site incorporates large sand dune systems grading into machair landscape, including machair lochs, on the west coast of North Uist. The lochs are therefore surrounded by machair landforms and represent high-quality naturally eutrophic waterbodies that reflect a strong maritime influence and have been protected from any major modifications. Lochs of this type are Loch nam Feithean and Loch Croghearraidh. The lochs support a diverse aquatic plant flora typical of eutrophic lochs that includes the rare slender naiad Najas flexilis, slender-leaved pondweed Potamogeton filiformis, common duckweed Lemna minor (which is rare in the local area) and stoneworts Chara spp.

Annex I habitats present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for selection of this site

Annex II species that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • Not Applicable

Annex II species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.