Some of the abiotic, or non-living, factors affecting the ecosystem in a chaparral are temperature, wet winters with dry summers, a nearby body of water and wildfires. In a chaparral, which is also known as a Mediterranean climate, warm air rising from the equator combines with an adjacent body of water to provide a high degree of rain during a relatively warm winter which stands in contrast to a hot and dry summer. Chaparral biomes across the world are most frequently found at latitudes between 30 and 40 degrees north and south of the equator and contain characteristically predominant shrubland plant communities.
In the United States, chaparral ecosystems are found primarily in California, where they cover about 5 percent of the state. Wildfires are a significant abiotic factor. If they are infrequent or absent, conifers may invade the biome's shrub communities. Human intervention in the form of fire suppression can enable an invasive plant species to displace the shrub communities.
Some herbaceous and annual chaparral plant species are dependent on frequent wildfires to clear space so that ample sunlight can reach them. When the overstory regrows, dormant seeds will be dormant until the aftermath of the next wildfire, and then sprout in the newly cleared space. These species are sometimes referred to as "fire followers." Chaparrals are most prone to wildfires during the dry, hot summers, but lightning strikes can ignite them during the wet seasons.