Heath

Heath landscape in the Stirling Range, Western Australia, with a dieback-infested valley in the mid-ground

A heath (θ/) is a shrubland habitat found mainly on free-draining infertile, acidic soils and is characterised by open, low-growing woody vegetation. Moorland is generally related to high-ground heaths[1] with—especially in Great Britain—a cooler and damper climate.

Heaths are widespread worldwide, but are fast disappearing and considered a rare habitat in Europe.[2] They form extensive and highly diverse communities across Australia in humid and sub-humid areas where fire regimes with recurring burning are required for the maintenance of the heathlands.[3] Even more diverse though less widespread heath communities occur in Southern Africa. Extensive heath communities can also be found in the California chaparral, New Caledonia, central Chile and along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to these extensive heath areas, the vegetation type is also found in scattered locations across all continents, except Antarctica.

Characteristics

Heathland is favoured where climatic conditions are typically hard and dry, particularly in summer, and soils acidic, of low fertility, and often sandy and very free-draining; a mire may occur where drainage is poor, but usually is only small in extent. Heaths are dominated by low shrubs, 20 centimetres (7.9 in) to 2 metres (7 feet) tall.

Heath vegetation can be extremely plant-species rich, and heathlands of Australia are home to some 3,700 endemic or typical species in addition to numerous less restricted species.[3] The fynbos heathlands of South Africa are second only to tropical rainforests in plant biodiversity with over 7,000 species.[4] In marked contrast, the tiny pockets of heathland in Europe are extremely depauperate with a flora consisting primarily of heather (Calluna vulgaris), heath (Erica species) and gorse (Ulex species).

The bird fauna of heathlands are usually cosmopolitan species of the region.[3][4] In the depauperate heathlands of Europe, bird species tend to be more characteristic of the community and include Montagu's harrier, and the tree pipit. In Australia the heathland avian fauna is dominated by nectar-feeding birds such as honey-eaters and lorikeets although numerous other birds from emus to eagles are also common in Australian heathlands. Australian heathlands are also home to the world's only nectar-feeding terrestrial mammal: the honey possum. The bird fauna of the South African fynbos includes sunbirds, warblers and siskins. Heathlands are also an excellent habitat for insects including ants, moths, butterflies and wasps with many species being restricted entirely to it. One such example of an organism restricted to heathland is the silver-studded blue butterfly, Plebejus argus[5].

Other Languages
Ænglisc: Hǣþ
العربية: براح
aragonés: Brucal
asturianu: Gorbizal
Boarisch: Hoad
brezhoneg: Lanneg
čeština: Vřesoviště
dansk: Hede
eesti: Nõmm
español: Brezal
Esperanto: Erikejo
فارسی: خلنگزار
français: Lande
Frysk: Heide
Gaeilge: Fraochmhá
galego: Uceira
Bahasa Indonesia: Lahan kosong
italiano: Landa
қазақша: Хит
magyar: Fenyér
Nederlands: Heide (vegetatie)
Nedersaksies: Heed (laandschap)
日本語: ヒース
Nordfriisk: Hias
norsk: Hede
norsk nynorsk: Hei
polski: Wrzosowisko
português: Charneca
română: Landă
Seeltersk: Heedelound
Simple English: Heath
slovenščina: Resava
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Vriština
svenska: Hed
українська: Пустище
中文: 石楠荒原