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Buzzing about Crofting Practice

This guest blog has been kindly written by Katie Morrison, a recent graduate from Aberdeen University. Katie recieved a first class grade for her honours thesis in which she investigated how farming practices in the Outer Hebrides impact on bumblebee diversity and abundance. Here she tells us about her findings.

Background

Bumblebees are endearing and charismatic. It is, however, no secret that bumblebees are coming under growing pressure from intensive farming practices throughout Britain. But nestled in the North-West corner of Britain in the Outer Hebrides, rare bumblebees including the Great Yellow (extinct across England & Wales) and Moss Carder are thriving!

The machair of the Outer Hebrides might be unfamiliar to you. Machair (a Gaelic word) is a beautiful coastal habitat consisting of an extensive, low-lying fertile grassland.  Its shell based soil hosts a multitude of flowers throughout the summer but is nearly barren throughout the winter. The floral display is unique across the world hosting some rare orchids, making it a precious habitat globally.Balranald Machair on North Uist (Photo credit: Katie Morrison)

Intensive agricultural is not possible in the Hebrides because of the tough climate (do not be deceived by the idyllic scene above)! The Hebrides is dominated by crofting, a traditional family farming practice carried out on small areas of land, mostly consisting of grazing regimes and rotational cropping. The machair plays a key role in this system.

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