Machair is a vulnerable low-lying coastal ecosystem with internationally recognised conservation importance. It is characterised by wind-blown calcareous shell-sand soils that support a patchwork of low-input land-use types including species rich grasslands and small-scale arable production. In contrast to numerous above-ground studies, few below-ground studies have been made on the Machair. Thus, a knowledge gap exists, and no baseline data is available to determine the impact, if any, of fundamental changes in Machair land management practices such as a move from traditional rotational to permanent grazing, and increased use of inorganic fertiliser. To address this knowledge deficit, we assessed the impact of different agronomic management practices (cropped, fallow and grasslands) on the structure of soil nematode communities over a two-year period along a geographically limited north-south gradient of coastal Machair of the Outer Hebrides archipelago. Land use followed by season were the main drivers of nematode communities from Machair soils. Functionally, nematode communities from grassland were typically distinct from cropped or fallow communities driven primarily by differential contributions to the overall nematode community by the dominant bacterial-feeding nematodes. Temporally, nematode communities sampled in spring and autumn were distinct.
- Climate change
- Fragile ecosystem