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Chaparral is a shrubland or heathland plant community found primarily in the U.S. state of California and in the northern portion of the Baja California peninsula, Mexico. It is shaped by a Mediterranean climate (mild, wet winters and hot dry summers) and wildfire, having summer drought tolerant plants with hard sclerophyllous evergreen leaves, as contrasted with the associated soft leaved, drought deciduous, scrub community of Coastal sage scrub, found below the chaparral biome.

According to the California Academy of Sciences, Chaparral covers 5% of the state of California, and associated Mediterranean scrubland an additional 3.5%.[1] Cismontane chaparral ("this side of the mountain") refers to chaparral growing on the coastal side of large mountain ranges, such as east of the Sierra Nevada or San Jacinto Mountains east of the San Diego area, or south of the Transverse ranges north of the Los Angeles area, while transmontane ("the other side of the mountain") chaparral refers to the shrubland community growing in the rainshadow of these ranges, which has a desert, not Mediterranean climate, and is referred to as Desert chaparral.[2][3] The foothills west of the Sierra Nevada may be covered with cismontain chaparral, and have a hot and subhumid climate.[4] Some classify cismontane chaparral further into upper and lower chaparral.[2]

Similar plant communities are found in the four other Mediterranean climate regions around the world, including the Mediterranean Basin (where it is known as maquis), central Chile (where it is called matorral), South African Cape Region (known there as fynbos), and in Western and Southern Australia. According to the California Academy of Sciences, Mediterranean shrubland contains more than 20% of the world's plant diversity.[1]

The word chaparral is a loan word from Spanish. The Spanish word comes from the word chaparro, which means both small and dwarf evergreen oak, which itself comes from the Basque word txapar, with the same meaning.


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