Stratigraphy and internal structure of wind-dominated barrier islands (dune and machair) of the Outer Hebrides, Scotland: Stratigraphy and internal structure of wind-dominated barrier islands

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The barrier islands that fringe the western shore of the Outer Hebrides are globally unusual in that they are developed on a planated bedrock (strandflat) surface. They also contain the most extensive area of machair (a distinctive vegetated sandy plain) in the British Isles. This paper presents the first investigation of the internal structure and morphology of these barrier islands and investigates the controls on their structure. The barriers form extensive (300-1000 metres wide) but thin (1.5-2 m) surficial deposits typically resting on bedrock. In areas where depressions exist in the bedrock, and where sediment supply permits, transgressive dunes underlie the machair. A distinctive machair facies of sub-horizontal, undulating reflections, which are laterally continuous over tens of metres is the dominant component of the barriers at each site. This reflects episodic deposition of windblown sand up to the level of the water table. Thereafter any additional sand is transported through the system to accumulate in topographic lows as lake fills, or on topographic highs as ‘high machair’. Eight radar facies were identified, the extent and presence of which vary between the study sites. Bedrock topography and sediment supply are interpreted as the dominant controls on variability in barrier structure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16308154
Pages (from-to)1482-1493
Number of pages12
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number7
Early online date17 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019



  • GPR
  • Machair
  • Barrier Islands
  • Outer Hebrides
  • planated bedrock
  • strandflat
  • Machair

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