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Ecosystems

Scrubland

California chapparal plantsCalifornia chapparal plants An area of land scattered sparsely with vegetation, such as shrubs (woody plants that are shorter than most trees), bushes and grasses, is known as scrubland, scrub or shrubland. Known in different regions of the world as chaparral, mallee, fynbos, mattoral or maquis, scrubland occurs where the land is too hot, dry or salty to support larger plants and trees. Some scrubland is created by human activity, such as fires, land-clearing or intensive animal grazing. Containing a rich variety of plants, scrublands are home to animals that are adapted to hot, dry environments.

Mediterranean maquis shrublandMediterranean maquis shrubland

Matorral vegetation in central ChileMatorral vegetation in central Chile

Mediterranean scrubland

Large areas of scrubland are found in places with a Mediterranean climate, such as Southern Europe, North Africa, California, South Africa, Chile and parts of Western Australia. Hot, dry summers make it difficult for trees to grow tall there, and the land is covered by small, tough, evergreen shrubs such as strawberry trees, juniper, blackthorn, myrtle and sage. Around the Mediterranean Sea itself, this is known as maquis vegetation. In Chile it is called matorral, and in California chapparal.

Just 24 European rabbits were released into the wild in Australia in 1859. By the 1920s the number of rabbits had soared to more than 10 billion—although extermination measures have reduced that number to around 200 million today. The rabbits have already severely damaged Australia’s scrublands by eating the shoots and seedlings of many young plants.

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