The chaparral biome exists only in the US and Mexico. It is a unique ecosystem adapted to the hot climate and regular wildfires.
Where the chaparral biome is located
The chaparral biome is located along the coastline. It can be found only in California and Southern Oregon region in the US, and in Baja California in Mexico. The landscape here resembles the Mediterranean nature: dry summers, wet winters. The name of this biome comes from the Spanish word “Chaparro” which means “place of the scrub oak”.
Fires in the chaparral
Wildfires happen in the chaparral biome not often but they are always very intensive. One of the reasons for that is the summer drought: this region usually receives only 15-40 inches (40-100 cm) of rain per year. Summers here are hot and dry which makes the perfect conditions for bushfires. However, the chaparral ecosystem is fully adapted to them, and it always recovers afterward. Massive wildfires happen here about once in 30 years. In past, Native Americans used to burn chaparral in order to promote grasslands.
Despite the dry climate, the plant life here is quite diverse. This biome covers about 9% of California, but it’s home to 20% of all Californian plant species. All local plants are well-adapted to droughts, and most of them are evergreen. Some chaparral plant communities can grow so dense and tall that it becomes difficult for large animals and humans to penetrate them.
Animals of the chaparral biome
Most animals residing here are the same as animals in the grasslands and desert. This makes sense, as the chaparral is somewhere in between these two biomes. However, if the same species of animals live in the grasslands and the chaparral, the chaparral specimen will be adapted to hot and dry weather better. That’s how evolution works! Examples: jackrabbits, coyotes, and various reptiles.
Circle of life
Wildfires in the chaparral are regular. They wipe out plants, and after the first rain small flowering herbaceous plants take over. They don’t live long though, only till the next summer, when all of them die. Their seeds in the ground can wait for the next fire & rain for years.
People and the chaparral biome
A huge part of this biome is located in California. At the same time, California is the most populous state in the United States. Therefore, we can say that the chaparral is really densely populated. This has a negative impact on the environment.
Chaparral on other continents
As we know already, the chaparral biome is located in North America. However, there are similar biomes in Europe (near the Mediterranean sea), South Africa, South America, and Australia. Sometimes these local biomes are also called “chaparral”. It can be said that chaparral covers from 2% to 5% of the terrestrial territory, depending on how we count.
The chaparral biome climate facts
Sometimes it gets really cold in chaparral. Summers are hot and super dry, but temperatures can dip down to nearly freezing! Most rains happen in winter only, so chaparral is as dry as some deserts! However, unlike deserts, winters there are usually quite mild and wet.
Characteristics of the chaparral biome
Located near coastlines, the chaparral biome is geographically diverse and covers a wide range of landscapes: forests, shrubs, plains, hillsides, and mountains. Another characteristic of the chaparral biome is its tendency to overlap with deserts and other arid biomes. Soil quality there is quite poor.
Clouds are a rare thing to see in chaparral. The reason for that is the low humidity level, so clouds rarely form. However, sometimes air currents bring clouds from the ocean.