Characteristics of the Temperate Shrubland or Chaparral

Temperate shrub land or chaparral is a dry-weather biome, an area with distinctive climate and animal and plant species.  Pockets of temperate chaparral exist in multiple countries including the Central Coast of California, the West Coast of South America, parts of South Africa and the Mediterranean.  Temperate chaparral is similar to desert chaparral that can also be found in areas of the Mediterranean and California, except the temperate areas have cooler average temperatures of between 53 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  The difference in temperatures and the slight increase in precipitation yields denser shrubbery in the more untouched areas, which changes the overall ecosystem.

Plants in the temperate chaparral biome are masters of water conservation, and have hard, waxy leaves or needles that keep water locked inside.  They also must be able to live in soil that is often nutrient poor, and can even be bare rock or sand.  Trees like blue oaks and mountain mahoganies are able to spread their branches wider because of a greater amount of space between them compared to other woodland ecosystems.  The area is also welcoming to coniferous pines.  Beneath the trees are dense scrub areas with plants such as common sagebrush and manzanitas, a shrub with smooth red bark and heather-like flowers.  In the California temperate chaparral grows California Buckeye as well with its waxy and supple green leaves.  Mosses and lichens that define the area’s flora grow on many of the above mentioned plants.

All animals that live in the chaparral are adapted to a warm, semi-arid climate.  The largest predator in California’s Chaparral was the now-extinct California Grizzly Bear and is now the Mountain Lion.  Golden jackals, coyotes, and the occasional Gray Fox fill the ticket of canine predators, and prey on some of the smaller rodent-like animals that live nestled in the brush.  Among these are rabbits, ground squirrels, opossum, and mice.  Skunks also live in the chaparral, but they are less appetizing prey due to the spray of potent musk they use in their own defense.  Other common sites are families of mule deer and scavenging raccoons, which often leave the wild lands and come into neighborhoods to feast upon garbage.  Many species of birds such as quail frequent the Chaparral as well as venomous rattlesnakes.

Due to the dry climate and the thickness of the brush, chaparral areas are at high risk for wildfires.  In the days when Chumash tribes were masters of the California coast, controlled burns were used to manage the dense underbrush, but this technique is not used regularly anymore.  Wildfires often occur due to human error or natural causes in these areas that take several days to control, and often visitors are prohibited from building camp fires during the summer and autumn months.  Other than this risk, however, and wariness of snakes and Mountain Lions, the temperate shrub land or chaparral can offer some of the most pleasant places to camp or hike.