The chaparral biome, or brush land communities are composed of dense, spiny shrubs with tough evergreen leaves, often coated with a waxy material. The chaparral biome is found in most continents- the west coast of the United States, the west coast of South America, the Cape Town of South Africa, the western tip of Australia and the coastal areas of the Mediterranean.
The chaparral biome has a dry climate because of the dominance of the subtropical high pressure zone during the fall, summer, and spring months. Precipitation falls mainly in the winter months because of the seasonal movement of the polar front and its associated mid-latitude cyclone storms. Annual averages range from about 300 to 750 millimeters and most of this rain falls in a period between 2 to 4 months long.
As a result of the climate, the vegetation that inhabits this biome exhibits a number of adaptations to withstand drought and fire. Trees and shrubs living in this zone tend to be small with hard evergreen leaves. Plants in the chaparral do not drop their leaves during the dry season because of the expense of replacement. The dry climate slows the rate leave decomposition in the soil. As a result, the plants growing in this biome do not have nutrients available for uptake to produce new leaves when the wet season begins. Instead the plants of the chaparral develop leaves that can withstand arid conditions.
The plants of the chaparral are adapted to and maintained by periodic fires. Many of the shrubs have deep and extensive root systems that permit quick regeneration. The fires burn all the plant structures above the ground, thus releasing the nutrients in them. The nutrients then are available for use by new plant shoots. In addition, many chaparral species produce seeds that germinate only after a hot fire.
Representative plant species include cork oak, eucalyptus, acacia, maritime pine shrub oak, and live oak. Many of the plant species have thorns to protect them from herbivore damage. Deer, fruit-eating birds, rodents, lizards, and snakes are characteristic chaparral animals.