The Endemic Plants of Chile

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Coastal matorral

Rainfall along the northern coast is about 400 mm a year, gradually increasing towards the south where it can reach 1,000 mm in the region of Biobío. Rainfall is greater at higher elevations, where airflow often results in cloud formation (the orographic effect) and if sufficiently humid can result in rainfall, especially on the windward side of a hill or mountain. Coastal fogs are frequent above 500 m and are vital for the survival of unique habitats such as the forests above Cachagua and Zapallar. With the combination of a decrease in both latitude and altitude the average temperatures in the northern part (Valparaíso) are c. 14 C, in comparison to c. 12.5 C in the southern areas (Biobío). The coastal terrain includes a succession of beaches and rock formations which are resplendent with plant life during the rainy season; a good example of this is BioParque Puquén at Los Molles. The numerous and extensive dune systems are important habitats for herbaceous vegetation and in the flatter areas saltmarshes are often well developed. The coastal scrub shares many characteristics with the Californian chaparral; low shrubs such as Bahia ambrosioides and the summer deciduous Adesmia microphylla and Fuchsia lycioides, are abundant. Also noteworthy in this landscape are Puya species and several species of cacti from the genera Eulychnia and Leucostele.