Shrublands in Andalusia, scrubs & shrubs (Matorral ecosystems)
Territories of temporal transition and surprises, extremely rich in the Iberian Peninsula.
The bushes form a type of vegetation where shrubs and scrubs predominate, and develop prior to the establishment of trees and the implantation of forests. This dynamic, known as ecological succession, usually occurs in plots where the grove has been previously eliminated by being subjected to extractive logging, clearing or overgrazing, not forgetting fires.
In other cases, ecological succession may be blocked at the thicket stage if local conditions impede tree growth. This situation is observed for climatic reasons in high mountains (oro- and cryo-Mediterranean bioclimatic floors) or edaphological in extremely dry or high saline soils.
A list of vegetation dominated by shrubs:
- Piornales and enebrales – sabinares (padded and creeping vegetation in high mountain)
- Jaral, heath and cantuesal (silicic thickets)
- Romerales and thyme (basophilic scrubs)
- Retama brooms of high bearing
- Tamujares (Securigena tinctoria) in temporary streams of Sierra Morena
- Coastal and continental salt marshes (halophilic vegetation)
El “monte mediterráneo“, a consecrated expression in popular use identifying the terrestrial ecosystem so typical of the Iberian Peninsula where forest and scrub are intermingled. In Spain, forestry engineers are known as “de monte”.
Rockrose (Cistus spp) and Spanish broom (Spartium junceum), typical shrublands in Andalusia, quickly colonize open spaces, such as this clearing created by a fire in a coastal pine forest of umbrella pines (Pinus pinea).
Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is an aromatic from the labiate family typical of the Spanish scrubland. Floriferous, it attracts insects, in particular bumblebees.
The “nuns cushions” (hedgehog heath) are typical of the Andalusian mountains and serve as a refuge for many insects, especially orthoptera.
Broom (in the broad sense) offer us an abundant and fragrant bloom.
Highlight the curious hedgehog heath, a type of high mountain vegetation, typical of the Iberian southeast and also present in Sierra de Las Nieves, but not found in other European mountains.
The Mediterranean forest is rich in shrubs that occasionally form vegetation patches within the grove: lentisk (Pistacia lentiscus), common myrtle (Myrtus communis), etc.
The Iberian Peninsula is an important point of diversity for shrub legumes. Many of these plants have spectacular blooms and are excellent sources of nectar and pollen, very useful for flower dependent insects such as butterflies, bees and beetles.
These broom and thicket tangles serve as a hiding place for many insects such as mantis, bush crickets and many others, and also for many birds such as Sardinian warbler (Sylvia melanocephala).
In coastal thickets, chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleo) use to hide among bridal broom (Retama monosperma).
I have dedicated several summer weeks to the Cazorla and Segura orthopterans, the rarest and most interesting species of which seem to appreciate the refuge of the specialy thorny blue broom cushions. One of my favorite habitats!
Continental salt marshes in Granada
Vegetation adapted to saline conditions (halophilic plants) appears far from the coast when the soil is in contact with salty streams or the former sea bed (Guadalquivir channel). In those conditions, an unexpected diversity of shrubs can be found, although those plants are generally tricky to identify. Those continental salt marshes, of great interest and not uncommon in Eastern Andalusia, gives rise to rare landscapes in Europe, which evoke the great plains of Central Asia.