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California interior chaparral and woodlands

California interior chaparral and woodlands

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The California interior chaparral and woodlands ecoregion covers 24900 mi2 in an elliptical ring around the California Central Valley
California Central Valley
California's Central Valley is a large, flat valley that dominates the central portion of California. It is home to California's most productive agricultural efforts. The valley stretches approximately from northwest to southeast inland and parallel to the Pacific Ocean coast. Its northern half is...

. It occurs on hills and mountains ranging from 300 feet (91.4 m) to 3000 feet (914.4 m). It is part of the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub
Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub
Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome, defined by the World Wildlife Fund, characterized by dry summers and rainy winters. Summers are typically hot in low-lying inland locations but can be cool near some seas, as near San Francisco, which have a sea of cool waters...

 biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

, with cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Many plant and animal species in this ecoregion are adapted to periodic fire.

Flora


These woodlands are varied and rich in plant life. The ecoregion contains areas of grass, chaparral
Chaparral
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...

 shrublands, savanna dotted with oak, oak woodlands
California oak woodland
California oak woodland is a plant community found throughout the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion of California in the United States and northwestern Baja California in Mexico...

, serpentine soil
Serpentine soil
A serpentine soil is derived from ultramafic rocks, in particular serpentinite, a rock formed by the hydration and metamorphic transformation of ultramafic rock from the Earth's mantle....

 communities, closed-cone pine forest
Closed-cone pine forest
Closed-cone pine forest is a plant community of coastal California and several offshore islands. It consists of stands of Bishop Pines, Monterey Pines, and others which rely on fire or strong heat to open their cones and release the seeds.-Closed-cone Pines:...

 with small patches of mountain conifers, wetland, marsh, and riverside forest.

Chaparral and oak woodlands
California oak woodland
California oak woodland is a plant community found throughout the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion of California in the United States and northwestern Baja California in Mexico...

 are the most widespread plant communities in this ecoregion. The chaparral is composed of diverse shrubs and herbs
Herbaceous plant
A herbaceous plant is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground...

. These include chamise
Adenostoma fasciculatum
Adenostoma fasciculatum is a flowering plant native to California and northern Baja California. This shrub is one of the most widespread plants of the chaparral biome.-Description:...

 and several species of manzanita
Arctostaphylos
Arctostaphylos is a genus of plants comprised by the manzanitas and bearberries. They are shrubs or small trees.There are about 60 species of Arctostaphylos, ranging from ground-hugging arctic, coastal, and mountain species to small trees up to 6 m tall. Most are evergreen , with small oval...

 and ceanothus
Ceanothus
Ceanothus L. is a genus of about 50–60 species of shrubs or small trees in the buckthorn family Rhamnaceae. The genus is confined to North America, the center of its distribution in California, with some species in the eastern United States and southeast Canada, and others extending as far south...

. Gray pine often emerges from the shrubs. Meanwhile buckeye
Aesculus californica
Aesculus californica is a species of buckeye that is native [ |] to California and southwest Oregon [Jackson, County], and the only buckeye native to these states.-Description:...

 is extensive and Blue oak is one of the most extensive of the many varieties of oak in the woodlands: scrub oak, coast live oak, canyon live oak
Quercus chrysolepis
Quercus chrysolepis, commonly termed Canyon Live Oak, or Golden Cup Oak, is a species of evergreen oak that is found in the southwestern part of North America, notably in the California Coast Ranges. This tree is often found near creeks and drainage swales growing in moist cool microhabitats...

, valley oak, and interior live oak.

The pine and cypress communities on the areas of serpentine soil
Serpentine soil
A serpentine soil is derived from ultramafic rocks, in particular serpentinite, a rock formed by the hydration and metamorphic transformation of ultramafic rock from the Earth's mantle....

 within this ecoregion harbor many endemic species such as milkwort jewelflower
Streptanthus polygaloides
Streptanthus polygaloides is a species of flowering plant in the mustard family known by the common name milkwort jewelflower. It is endemic to the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, where it grows in woodlands and chaparral, generally on serpentine soils.-Description:Streptanthus polygaloides...

. The main trees of this habitat are Sargent cypress
Cupressus sargentii
Cupressus sargentii is a species of conifer in the Cupressaceae family known by the common name Sargent's cypress. It is endemic to California, where it is known from Mendocino county southwards to Santa Barbara county. This taxon is limited to the Coast Range mountains. Like Mcnab Cypress, it...

 and MacNab cypress
Cupressus macnabiana
Cupressus macnabiana is a species of cypress in western North America.-Distribution:It is endemic to northern California...

 with California scrub oak
Quercus durata
Quercus durata is an oak endemic to California.Quercus durata var. durata is a strict serpentine endemic that occurs in the Coast Range and northern Sierra Nevadas. It is often a component of serpentine chaparral...

.

Fauna


Over seventy species of mammals occur in this rich ecoregion. The endemic mammals include three species of kangaroo rat. Some hundred species of birds occur here. Indicator
Indicator species
An indicator species is any biological species that defines a trait or characteristic of the environment. For example, a species may delineate an ecoregion or indicate an environmental condition such as a disease outbreak, pollution, species competition or climate change...

 species are scrub jays, acorn woodpeckers, and wrentits.

Threats and preservation


About one third of the original habitat remains, especially at higher elevations. The trees of Closed-cone pine forest
Closed-cone pine forest
Closed-cone pine forest is a plant community of coastal California and several offshore islands. It consists of stands of Bishop Pines, Monterey Pines, and others which rely on fire or strong heat to open their cones and release the seeds.-Closed-cone Pines:...

 are adapted to open the cones and release seeds for new growth following the heat of forest fires. As fire regulation and suppression becomes more effective these communities cannot renew themselves.

Protected areas of the ecoregion include: Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore is a park preserve located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, California, USA. As a national seashore, it is maintained by the US National Park Service as a nationally important nature preserve within which existing agricultural uses are allowed to continue...

, Mount Tamalpais State Park
Mount Tamalpais State Park
Mount Tamalpais State Park is a California state park, located in Marin County, California. The primary feature of the park is the Mount Tamalpais. The park contains mostly redwood and oak forests. The mountain itself covers around . There are about of hiking trails, which are connected to a...

, Mount Diablo State Park
Mount Diablo State Park
Mount Diablo is a mountain in Contra Costa County, California in the San Francisco Bay Area, located south of Clayton and northeast of Danville. It is an isolated upthrust peak of , visible from most of the San Francisco Bay Area and much of northern California...

, Henry W. Coe State Park
Henry W. Coe State Park
Henry W. Coe State Park is a California state park located in Santa Clara and Stanislaus counties. It contains over 86,000 acres , making it the largest state park in northern California, and the second-largest in the state...

, Pinnacles National Monument
Pinnacles National Monument
Pinnacles National Monument is a protected mountainous area located east of central California's Salinas Valley, just miles from the town of Soledad...

, and Carrizo Plain National Monument.

External links