Page last updated at 06:06 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 07:06 UK

2m to protect islands' machair

Machair provides habitat for birds and insects

Traditional farming methods will be encouraged in a new project aimed at protecting fertile coastal meadowlands on the Hebrides.

The land, known as Machair, provides habitat for rare wildlife, including the great yellow bumblebee.

A £2m funding package has been put together with contributions from Europe and public bodies.

Harvesting crops later and using seaweed as fertiliser will be encouraged, RSPB Scotland said.

The building of stooks - the stacking of hay and straw in conical stacks - will also be promoted.

The funding will make a real difference to fragile island economies
Stuart Housden
RSPB Scotland director

Stooks offer a source of food for farmland birds such as corn bunting.

Western Isles council, Conmhairle nan Eilean Siar, along Scottish Natural Heritage and the European Union will fund the RSPB Scotland-led project and the creation of three full-time posts linked with it.

It is expected to start in January.

Machair can be found on the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

The RSPB estimate that it is home to 16,000 breeding pairs of wading birds such as lapwings and ringed plovers.

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: "The funding will make a real difference to fragile island economies, with three new jobs created on the Western Isles, and direct support for the traditional crofting skills which are vital to preserving this unique wildlife, landscape and culture."

Ena MacDonald, Uist crofter and Scottish Crofting Foundation representative, supported the encouragement of traditional methods.

She added: "I welcome this new funding and look forward to it addressing the issues facing crofters and helping the systems adapt to the benefit of all."

Western Isles SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan welcomed the involvement of crofters in the project.

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