Mediterranean Shrublands (Chaparral Biome)
Mediterranean Shrublands or Chaparral biome is found along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, California, Central Chile, south-western part of South Africa and south-western parts of Australia.
Mediterranean-type climate regions occur roughly between 30° and 40° latitude on the west coasts of continents, where offshore there are cold ocean currents. Each region in which the Mediterranean shrublands and woodlands occur is island-like in character and thus there is frequently a high degree of endemism.
In Mediterranean regions, wet season coincides with the low sun or winter period. Summers are dry. Total annual precipitation ranges between 40 and 90 cms per year. Temperatures are those of the subtropics moderated by maritime influence and fogs associated with the cold ocean currents. The result is a very limited, but predictable, growing season when there is both sufficient soil moisture and adequately warm temperatures. Many plants are adapted to withstand drought.
The Mediterranean climate has hot and dry summers and mild-wet winters. The natural vegetation of this biome adapted according to the dry and hot summer conditions. Plant ecologists are of the opinion that this biome is well adapted to frequent fires, for many of its characteristically deep-rooted plants have the ability to re-sprout from their roots after a fire.
The dominant shrubs that occupy these regions are stunted and tough in their ability to with-stand hot- summer drought and due to this, the chaparral vegetation is also known as sclerophyllous. It averages as metre or two in height and has deep, well developed roots, leathery and uneven low branches.
Throughout the world, the Mediterranean biome is characterized by shrubs. In most regions these shrubs are evergreen and have small, leathery (sclerophyllous) leaves with thick cuticles. Sometimes the leaves are so reduced as to appear needle-like. Many typical members of the shrub flora are aromatic (for example, sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano) and contain highly flammable oils. Mediterranean regions have long been impacted by humans especially through the use of fire and the grazing of livestock.
Other Regional Names
- In the Mediterranean proper–Europe, North Africa, and Asia Minor, they are known as Maquis.
- In Chile, they are known as Matorral
- In Australia, they are expressed by the Mallee scrub vegetation of subtropical Australia.
The Mediterranean region of Europe and Asia has a significant concentration of cork-oak, olive, fig, and citrus fruits. In Australia the bulk of the eucalyptus species is sclerophyllous in form and structure.