Machair and Bladder Wrack

May 02, 2014

Machair and Bladder Wrack

Photographer: Stu Witmer
Summary Author: Stu Witmer

Seen above is a beach on Scotland’s West Coast. The white sand, green grass and brown seaweed are all a product of the specific local geography. The relentless westerlies blow the sand, made mostly of calcareous shells, onto the coasts, where it piles up as mobile dunes. Short-turf grasslands called machair take root in low-lying areas. These are fertilized by the seaweed. Humans are an essential part of this habitat. For thousands of years the growth of the machair has been assisted by a traditional management system that includes seasonal cattle grazing and cropping with black oats and rye.Closeup seaweed The resulting machair habitat is one of the rarest in Europe and is found only in the north and west of Scotland and Ireland. The flowers of the machair can be quite stunning, particularly in July.

The seaweed here (left) is bladder wrack (Fucus vesiculosus). It's widely found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The little air bladders help the plant photosynthesize by holding the long leaves up near the surface. Containing magnesium, protein, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and vitamin A, this seaweed is edible whole by humans and as an additive to animal feed. It's also used on the machair as a fertilizer. Photos taken September 28, 2011.

Photo details: Top - Camera Model: Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS; Focal Length: 5.0mm; Aperture: f/8.0; Exposure Time: 0.0080 s (1/125); ISO equiv: 80. Insert - Same except: Focal Length: 20.0mm; Digital Zoom: 4.000x; Aperture: f/5.9; Exposure Time: 0.010 s (1/100); ISO equiv: 100.