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The ecology of California is diverse: it is considered to span six biogeographic provinces:"Coastal Chaparral Forest and Shrub","Dry Steppe","Coastal Steppe, Mixed Forest, and Redwood Forest","Sierran Steppe/Mixed Forest/Coniferous Forest","Coastal Range Open Woodland/Shrub/ Coniferous Forest/Meadow", and "American Semi-Desert and Desert".

Botanists generally consider the California chaparral and woodlands, Sierra Nevada forests, Central Valley grasslands, Northern California coastal forests, and Klamath-Siskiyou as a single California Floristic Province, which does not include the deserts of eastern California, which belong to other floristic provinces. Many Bioregionalists, including poet Gary Snyder, identify the central and northern Coast Ranges, Klamath-Siskiyoumarker, the Central Valley, and Sierra Nevada as Alta California or the Shasta Bioregion.

Semi-desert and desert

Californiamarker's high mountains block most moisture from reaching the eastern parts of the state, which are home to California's desert and xeric shrub ecoregions. The low desert of southeastern California is part of the Sonoran desertmarker ecoregion, which extends into Arizonamarker and parts of northern Mexicomarker. Southern California's high deserts constitute the Mojave desert ecoregion, which has affinities to the Great Basin shrub steppe, which covers California's Owens Valleymarker and Modoc Plateaumarker, as well as most of neighboring Nevadamarker.

Coastal chaparral

The southern and central Coast Ranges, including the San Francisco Bay Areamarker and Los Angelesmarker region, comprise the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion, which extends across the Mexican border into northwestern Baja Californiamarker. The California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion contains numerous plant communities, including oak savanna, oak woodland, conifer woodlands, chaparral, coastal sage scrub, and coastal grassland; these plant communities often occur as a mosaic, with patches of distinct plant communities situated in response to site conditions, including variations in sun exposure (north or south slopes), wind exposure, and soils, and variations in rainfall between wetter seaward slopes and the drier 'rain shadow' on the landward slopes.

Dry steppe

California's Central Valleymarker was once a large temperate grassland, the California Central Valley grasslandsmarker ecoregion, which was formerly home to great herds of grazing pronghorn and elk; some writers have referred to it as "America's Serengetimarker". The Central Valley has been mostly converted to farms and rangeland; its once great seasonal wetlands have been drained and its perennial bunch grasses replaced by exotic annual grassesor farm fields, but patches of the native bunchgrasses still exist, as do some of the small seasonal wetlands known as vernal pools.

Temperate coniferous forests

The mountains of northern California have a cooler and wetter climate, and are home to temperate coniferous forests, including the Sierra Nevada forests, Northern California coastal forests, Klamath-Siskiyou forestsmarker, and Central and Southern Cascades forests. These forests are home to some of the world's largest trees, the Coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) of the Northern California coastal forests, and the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), which lives in scattered groves in the Sierra Nevada forests. The highest peaks are home to tundra, fellfields (stony ground with patches of meadow), and krummholz (dwarf forests).

See also


  1. United States Department of Agriculture article on California's perennial native grasses

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