Chaparral

Chaparral is a shrubland or heathland plant community found primarily in the U.S. state of California and in the northern portion of the Baja California peninsula, Mexico. It is shaped by a Mediterranean climate (mild, wet winters and hot dry summers) and wildfire, featuring summer drought-tolerant plants with hard sclerophyllous evergreen leaves, as contrasted with the associated soft-leaved, drought deciduous, scrub community of Coastal sage scrub, found below the chaparral biome. Chaparral covers 5% of the state of California, and associated Mediterranean scrubland an additional 3.5%. The name comes from the Spanish word chaparro, applied to scrub oaks. In its natural regime, chaparral is characterized by infrequent fires, with intervals ranging between 10Ц15 years to over a hundred years. Mature chaparral (stands that have been allowed greater intervals between fires) is characterized by nearly impenetrable, dense thickets (except the more open chaparral of the desert). These plants are highly flammable. They grow as woody shrubs with hard and small leaves; are non-leaf dropping (non-deciduous); and are drought tolerant. After the first rains following a fire, the landscape is dominated by soft-leaved non-woody annual plants, known as fire followers, which die back with the summer dry period. Similar plant communities are found in the four other Mediterranean climate regions around the world, including the Mediterranean Basin (where it is known as maquis), central Chile (where it is called matorral), South African Cape Region (known there as fynbos), and in Western and Southern Australia (as kwongan). According to the California Academy of Sciences, Mediterranean shrubland contains more than

20% of the world's plant diversity. The word chaparral is a loan word from Spanish chaparro, meaning both "small" and "dwarf" evergreen oak, which itself comes from the Basque word txapar, with exactly the same meaning. Conservation International and other conservation organizations consider the chaparral to be a biodiversity hotspot - a biological community with a large number of different species - that are under threat by human activity. California cismontane chaparral Cismontane chaparral ("this side of the mountain") refers to a chaparral ecosystem in the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub Biome in California, growing on the western (and coastal) sides of large mountain range systems, such as: western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in the San Joaquin Valley foothills, western slopes of the Peninsular Ranges and California Coast Ranges, and south-southwest slopes of the Transverse Ranges in the Central Coast and Southern California regions.Transmontane chaparral or Desert chaparral Ч transmontane ("the other side of the mountain") chaparral Ч refers to the desert shrubland habitat and chaparral plant community growing in the rainshadow of these ranges. Transmontane chaparral features xeric desert climate - not Mediterranean climate habitats, and is also referred to as Desert chaparral. Desert chaparral is a regional ecosystem subset of the Deserts and xeric shrublands Biome, with some plant species from the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion. Unlike cismontain chaparral, which forms dense, impenatrable stands of plants, desert chaparral is open, with only about 50% of the ground covered. Individual shrubs can reach up to 10 feet (3.0 m) in height.