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Landmarks Focus: Chaparral Habitats

PictureChaparral habitat in Fremont Canyon (photo: Michael Dresser)

​Thanks to the Mediterranean climate of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, nature lovers have the opportunity to experience a variety of different habitats right here in Orange County.
 
You may not know it, but Orange County is full of what is called chaparral habitats. Often found on mountain slopes and coastal foothills, chaparral is California’s most extensive plant community. With a variety of different species, this habitat can be found up and down the California coast, from Baja to Southern Oregon.
 
Chaparral habitats usually contain drought-tolerant, woody shrubs that thrive in hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Most chaparral plants have large, hard leaves that can hold moisture. During the springtime, you’ll see Orange County hillsides full of airy, light green chaparral plants that turn brown in the summer and fall. Common chaparral plant species include scrub oak, chaparral yucca, golden yarrow, and so many more! There are also a variety of animals that make chaparral habitats their home including mule deer, quail, coyotes, rabbits, lizards, and others.

​Some drought-adapted plants in chaparral ecosystems have the ability to regenerate after wildfires through stem bases or dormant seeds laying in the soil. For certain plants, germination can be stimulated by heat or chemicals in smoke or charred wood. However, recently wildfires have been occurring too frequently and plant communities do not have enough time to fully recover, providing an opportunity for non-native plants to take hold. Irvine Ranch Conservancy works with its partners to prevent too-frequent fire through programs like Orange County Fire Watch, whose staff and volunteers monitor high-risk areas of the county to report and assist with early detection of fire ignition sources.
 
Since chaparral habitats make up a large portion of the Landmarks, Irvine Ranch Conservancy works year-round to restore these natural areas. From planting native shrubs to removing invasive weeds, the Conservancy works alongside public landowners OC Parks, the City of Irvine and the City of Newport Beach to protect this important environment. To learn more about Irvine Ranch Conservancy, visit IRConservancy.org.