Drivers of Chaparral Plant Diversity

  • Jon E. Keeley
Part of the Springer Series on Environmental Management book series (SSEM)


Chaparral diversity has marked spatial and temporal variation. Evolutionary diversity at the genetic, specific, and lineage level contribute to a very diverse flora. Ecological diversity is evident in life histories that comprise a range of physiological and morphological strategies for dealing with drought, and demographic patterns centered around different seedling recruitment strategies. Community or alpha diversity varies markedly through time. Mature chaparral ranges from monotypic stands of chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) to mixed chaparral often with up to a dozen shrub species. The understory contributes relatively little other than a few diminutive annuals and occasional herbaceous perennial resprouts. However, after fire, diversity increases dramatically and is often dominated by annuals that arise from a dormant seedbank with significant contribution of geophytes resprouting and flowering from dormant bulbs and corms. This flora has very diverse life histories, with some present only a year or two and then existing as a dormant seedbank or bulbs until the next fire. Others may persist much longer, often in gaps in the shrub canopy. Postfire dominance-diversity patterns fit a geometric model as most communities are dominated by a few species and the bulk of the flora comprise subordinates that occupy specific microhabitats. Postfire community assembly is a result of competitive interactions and environmental filtering effects. Beta diversity plays a role in community assembly for as heterogeneity of communities in the landscape increases, the potential species pool for a community increases. Gamma diversity is particularly high because species turnover across latitudinal and elevational gradients is high. The role of diversity in conferring community resilience is complex and a function of the life history of shrub dominants and the historical patterns of fires. Under some circumstances low diversity may be more resilient than high diversity, for example under high fire frequency monotypic stands of Adenostoma fasciculatum may resist change better than diverse stands that include obligate seeding shrubs sensitive to short interval fires. Postfire annuals also are sensitive to short interval fires as these disturbances enhance the invasion by more competitive non-native grasses. Expected increases in anthropogenic ignitions due to population growth are the biggest threat to biodiversity in chaparral.


Alpha diversity Beta diversity Dominance diversity Ecological diversity Gamma diversity Genetic diversity Postfire diversity 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveyThree RiversUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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