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Protecting and restoring Ireland s network of machair systems and associated breeding wader and pollinator communities

Reference: LIFE20 NAT/IE/000263 | Acronym: LIFE On Machair



The LIFE on Machair project is taking place within 9 SACs & 4 SPAs in the west and north-west of Ireland and aims to protect and restore the priority Annex I habitat Machair (*21AO) as well as associated coastal habitats and the species they support. The conservation status was assessed as Unfavourable – Bad:  (a habitat in serious danger of disappearing, at least regionally) in Ireland’s 2019 Habitats Directive reporting and further evidence suggests there has been further degradation since 2013. Additionally, machair forms a complex with the priority Annex I habitat *2130 Fixed dunes which was also assessed as unfavourable - bad in 2019. This project aims to address the primary pressures negatively impacting machair systems: unsustainable agricultural and recreational/tourism activities. Agriculture pressures include inappropriate stocking levels and timing of grazing and interference with the machair physical structure. Inappropriate grazing reduces the diversity of vegetation structure and plant communities, diminishing floral resources for pollinators, and producing a sward structure that is not suitable for nesting waders.



The overall objective of the LIFE on Machair project is to improve the conservation condition of Ireland’s ‘Machairs’ habitat and the ecological conditions for breeding waders and pollinators within project sites. The project will employ an integrated management approach; 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 specific objectives of the project are to:

  • Work with farmers to develop and roll out agricultural management agreements on project sites that incentivise and reward farmers for improving habitat functioning and delivering ecological resources for breeding waders and pollinators in the long term;
  • Work with landowners to implement site-specific conservation interventions (e.g. revegetation, predator control) to address acute threats to the targeted habitats and species;
  • Provide opportunities and support for local farmers and communities to engage in capacity building and knowledge sharing on the sustainable management of machair sites;
  • Reduce the negative impacts of recreational users on popular sites by developing a sustainable tourism model for machair sites;
  • Develop a strategy to ensure replication and transfer of project results in the context of the After- LIFE Plan.
The project will contribute to the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030, the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive, and the development of Ireland’s Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) for Natura 2000 including results-based agri-environmental agreements. It will contribute to the EU Pollinators Initiative, policy aiming to improve coastal habitat resilience to climate change, in line with the EU Strategy on Green Infrastructure. The project also complements the EU International Multi-Species Action Plan for the Conservation of Breeding Waders in Wet Grassland Habitats in Europe (2018-2028).


Expected results:

  • Improved structure and functions of the component habitats over a total machair system area of around 3,500 ha, with improved ecological conditions for waders and pollinators;
  • A results-based agri-environment measure designed and implemented on up to 3,000 ha of target lands, thereby improving habitat functioning and delivering ecological resources for waders and pollinators in the long term;
  • Site-specific concrete conservation actions for habitats, waders and pollinators implemented on around 3 500 ha of SACs (overlapping with approximately 560 ha of SPAs), reducing and/or eliminating acute threats to these habitats and species;
  • The above actions will improve the conservation condition of the targeted 1,200 ha of ‘Machairs’ (*21A0), that is 39% of the total area of machairs habitat in Ireland, and the EU, and 1 000 ha of ‘Fixed dunes’ (*2130), 12% of total area in Ireland;
  • The total population of breeding waders within lands targeted by the project at least maintained at 259 pairs, but ideally will have increased;
  • Annual community workshops in project sites will have explored the sustainable use of machair sites for tourism and recreation, and a sustainable tourism model for machair sites will have been developed;
  • Approximately 6 knowledge exchange groups covering all project areas implemented, supporting and improving farmer/landowner capacity to sustainably manage machair sites;
  • Local community initiatives developed during the workshops will have been facilitated through the provision of small grants for eco-friendly tourism to the value of €80,000; and
  • A strategy to ensure replication and transfer of project results in the context of the After-LIFE Plan will have been developed.


Reference: LIFE20 NAT/IE/000263
Acronym: LIFE On Machair
Start Date: 01/02/2022
End Date: 31/01/2028
Total Eligible Budget: 7,402,299 €
EU Contribution: 5,551,724 €


Coordinating Beneficiary: Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Concept Note was submitted by National Parks and Wildlife Service, formerly part of Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)
Legal Status: PAT
Address: Custom House, Custom House Quay, D01 W6X0, Dublin,
Contact Person: Sarah Uí Bhroin
Email: Send Email

LIFE Project Map



  • Grasslands
  • Coastal
  • Birds
  • Invertebrates
  • High Nature Value farmland


  • grassland ecosystem
  • coastal area


  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020” (03.05.2011)
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
  • COM(2013) 249 final “Communication from the Commission on Green Infrastructure (GI) - Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital” (06.05.2013)


  • 2130 - Fixed coastal dunes with herbaceous vegetation ("grey dunes")
  • 21A0 - Machairs (* in Ireland)


Code Name Type Version
Mullet/Blacksod Bay Complex SAC IE0000470 SCI/SAC v.2021
Horn Head and Rinclevan SAC IE0000147 SCI/SAC v.2021
Inishkea Islands SAC IE0000507 SCI/SAC v.2021
Inishkea Islands SPA IE0004004 SPA v.2021
Blacksod Bay/Broad Haven SPA IE0004037 SPA v.2021
Termoncarragh Lake and Annagh Machair SPA IE0004093 SPA v.2021
Gweedore Bay and Islands SAC IE0001141 SCI/SAC v.2021
Doogort Machair/Lough Doo SAC IE0001497 SCI/SAC v.2021
Doogort Machair SPA IE0004235 SPA v.2021
Lough Cahasy, Lough Baun and Roonah Lough SAC IE0001529 SCI/SAC v.2021
Mweelrea/Sheeffry/Erriff Complex SAC IE0001932 SCI/SAC v.2021
Slyne Head Peninsula SAC IE0002074 SCI/SAC v.2021
Murvey Machair SAC IE0002129 SCI/SAC v.2021


Name Type
Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Coordinator
FI(Fáilte Ireland - National Tourism Development Authority), Ireland Participant
Teagasc(Teagasc - The Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland Participant
DAFM(Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine), Ireland Participant