Mediterranean scrub in the world
The most typical Mediterranean scrub area is the Mediterranean basin, but it can also be found in other regions of the world: California, Central Chile, the southern tip of South-Africa and Southern Australia.
In the Mediterranean basin, the scrub has been remarkably attacked by tamed animals. In particular, goats do not have a specialised diet, so they can feed on any type of vegetation, supplying milk, wool, meat and hides. They need very little water and can even climb on trees to reach for food.
In the Mediterranean region, there are areas with an exceptional concentration of biodiversity and a high density of endemic species, the so-called hot spots. In Italy, these areas are in Sicily and Sardinia.
The problem with all these areas is that in the dry season there is nothing to protect plants from indiscriminate pasturing. Farmers do not stock up on fodder for the season and so animals keep pasturing even when the plants are not in their growing season, which results in the formation of poor and sparse vegetation. This vegetation is further affected by fires, since during the dry season everything is dry and easily flammable because of many species containing high amounts of volatile oils.
In California, the Mediterranean scrub is called chaparral and is an area of thorny shrubs rich in birds and other vertebrates, especially in the rainy season; during the hot summer, many birds and the largest herbivores migrate to more favourable areas. The mammals living in the chaparral are: terricolous squirrels and kangaroo rats, animals that store seeds in their lairs. The important function of these seeds is to preserve water since they take up the steam sent out by these small mammals as they breathe in their lairs. Largest animals include collared peccaries, that look like pigs but are smaller and also omnivores; common antelopes, which are very good runners; mule deer, which are very numerous, while the number of wolves, grizzlies and mountain lions is decreasing with time. Number one among birds is the runner cock, related to cuckoo, although without the latter’s parasitic habit of the nest; it is not good at flying but runs fast and feeds on reptiles and rodents.
In southern Australia, the scrub is called mallee and consists of half-dry scrubland. This habitat houses many granivorous birds and a few frugivorous ones (i.e. that feed on fruits). Granivorous birds include Australian pheasants, birds that do not hatch their eggs by sitting on them, but build up a mound of earth and lay their eggs onto it. The cock-pheasant is in charge of checking the temperature of the eggs by adding or removing soil from the mound. There are also many carnivorous birds, such as many species of falcons, goshawks, owls, little owls and butcher birds.
In Chile, there is the matorral, inhabited by such small mammals as the degu, a rodent which is as the same size as a mouse and has sharp nails with which it digs the ground in search of roots and tubers. Guanacos seem to have been living here once.
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