Chaparral biomes in ecology cut across five continents of the world, this biome is similar to the desert biome because of its hot and dry climates. Fire is one of the major occurrences in chaparral forest; this fire outbreak normally occurs due to frequent lightning strikes.
However, the fire is essential in controlling the balance of living organisms in this biome, because after its occurrences, it releases nutrients into the soil for plants growth.
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Definition of chaparral biome
Chaparral is a Spanish word and it is being interpreted shrub oaks. The chaparral biomes covers about 2% of the earth surface and it is made up of various terrains which include rocky hills, mountain slopes and flat plains, and they are characterized by wild fire, wet, hot and dry summer. The plants and animals in these communities possess certain features for adaptations.
Location of chaparral biomes
Chaparral biome cuts across small portions of US west coast, California, South Africas Cape Town, the Australia’s western tip, coast of the Mediterranean, and South Americas west coast. The chaparral biome is located in the Santa Barbara area of California, other places include Chile in South America which is seen as a rocky coastal land composed of shrubs, and it is also found in South Africa.
Chaparral biome is a habitat for many unique plants found nowhere else in the world – such as the Protean plant which are familiar with such environments and can easily adapt to dry and arid climate, vulnerable to wildfires.
Chaparral biome climate is a Mediterranean type of climate, it is characterized by hot and dry during the summer with temperatures reaching 1050F, and may last for 5 months. During winter, the temperature changes to mild and damp with temperatures remaining at around 500F and at most times can reduce to 300F.
However, the dry summer exposes the chaparral biome and makes it vulnerable to droughts and wildfires since the biome normally receives only 10-17 inches of rainfall per year, this occurring mostly during the winter season, plants and animals have unique characteristics for adaptation in this environment.
Looking at the chaparral biome in California, the temperatures usually increase from 530F to 650 F on the coast and 320F to 600 F in the mountain ranges. Precipitation ranges from 12 to 40 inches yearly, most especially during the cold winter months and sometimes during the fall and spring season too.
Precipitation is usually higher at high elevations. Snow also occur, but in little amount after which it melts away quickly.
Chaparral plants are mainly short woody shrubs with hard and small leaves, these plants are also described as drought resistant with evergreen leaves, they have leaves made from highly flammable materials which makes the fire to consume much of the plants when it occurs.
These plants have developed very heavy bark, deep root, hard and waxy exteriors (sclerophyllous) which enable their adaptation and help in preventing moisture loss (transpiration). These characteristics have enabled the plants to be resistant against the summer fires. During the summer fire, their seeds lie dormant until they are touched by fire.
Plants in chaparral biome have the ability to lose their leaves when the temperature becomes extreme. This characteristic is not common with deciduous plants that lose their leaves in winter. However, drought deciduous plants lose their leaves in the summer; this process allows them to reduce the energy and water demand and it helps to conserve water during the drought period.
Example of some plants found in the chaparral biomes include Yucca Wiple, shrubs, toyon, chamise, trees, ceanothus, cacti oak trees, pines and mahogany trees.
Animals in chaparral biomes do not eat sclerophyll leaves because the leaves are low in nutrients and can cause damage to their teeth over time. The leaves of these plants contain strong-tasting oils that help to keep herbivores away.
On the other hand, the oils are useful to humans and they serve other functions. Plants like Eucalyptus and Sagebrush produce resins and oils which are very important for different cosmetic uses and for flavoring of wine. These oils are pleasant in aroma and flavor and contain antioxidants and other healing properties.
Chaparral animals are numerous, there are over 100 species of birds that dominate the grassland and desert type of environments; this is because they can easily adapt to hot and dry climates.
The species of animals living here are able to survive in these communities with the use of very little water and the hot temperatures have become normal for them such that, they have no stress adapting to extreme temperatures.
These animals are nocturnal (feeding mainly from sunset to sunrise) as it is too hot for them to search for their prey during the day. Some examples of birds, insects and mammals that thrive in the challenging chaparral biome conditions include vultures, wrentit, sheep, cattle, mule deer, acorn woodpecker, Jackrabbits, mull deer, alligator lizards, honeybees, horned toads, coyotes, praying mantis, ladybugs, mouflon sheep, wild boar, horses and lynx.
Human impact on the chaparral biome
Although man is the major contributor chaparral fire, natural fires also occur regularly in this biome; these have endangered the species lives and have cause extinction of useful species.
Human interference is another threat to chaparral community as there are lots of construction work going on- there is construction of roads, bridges, tourist attractions and houses for the growing population; these have caused a lot of imbalance to animals and plants population.
Majority of people prefer to settle in biome environments because of their beauty and unique landscapes, and they are unaware of the destruction they caused to various species and because of these threats, various organisms have been endangered and some killed.
Chaparral land tends to be sloppy in nature, this sloppy landscape brings about erosion which washes away the top soil, and the runoff from these erosions is then emptied into water bodies, which results to water pollution in.
Air pollution is a big threat to the chaparral biome especially in the California area where people building homes, factories and industries for the growing population, hence, causing air pollution in the process.
Deforestations is a destruction caused by humans in the chaparral biome, it destroys vegetation and disrupts food chain of this communities.
Additionally, animal hunting is another cause of animal extinct in this biome; when animals are frequently hunted, the process causes strain and reduction on the population of this particular type of species.
Animal shortage hurts in many ways; as a result, some animals have migrated away to other places to stay safe and may not return to their natural habitat anymore. This migration has led to shortage of certain animal species in chaparral biome.
The Los Padres National Forest and Channel Islands National Parks are areas found near Santa Barbara, these parks have been set aside to take care and to preserve the Chaparral biomes and also to prevent the public from exploring these species.