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Image:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg
A steppe in Western Kazakhstan in early spring

In physical geography, a steppe (Russian: степь - step', Ukrainian: степ - step, Kazakh: дала - dala), pronounced in English as step, is a plain without trees (apart from those near rivers and lakes); it is similar to a prairie, although a prairie is generally considered as being dominated by tall grasses, while short grasses are said to be the norm in the steppe. It may be semi-desert, or covered with grass or shrubs or both, depending on the season and latitude.

The term is also used to denote the climate encountered in regions too dry to support a forest, but not dry enough to be a desert. The soil is considered too moist to be a desert, but too dry to support normal forest life. The climate of mid-latitude steppes can be summarized by hot summers and cold winters, averaging 250-500 mm (10-20 inches) of rain or equivalent in snowfall per year. In tropical locations, necessary rainfall to separate steppes from true deserts may be as half again as much due to greater evapotranspiration.

Plant life is usually greater than one foot tall, including the blue grama and buffalo grass, cacti, sagebrush, speargrass, and other small relatives of the sunflower.

Animal life includes the Corsac Fox, Mongolian Gerbil, Saiga Antelope, Northern Lynx, and the Saker Falcon.

The world's largest zone of steppes, often referred to as "the Great Steppe", is found in central Russia and neighbouring countries in Central Asia. The Pontic steppe stretches from the Ukraine in the west to the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea. To the east of the Caspian Sea, the steppes extend through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to the Altai, Koppet Dag and Tian Shan ranges. To the north, on the eastern side of the Urals, is the forested West Siberian Plain taiga, extending nearly as far as the Arctic Ocean.

Other regions of steppes include transition zones between savanna and severe desert such as the Sahel that fringes the true Sahara or similar semi-arid lands that fringe the Thar desert of the Indian subcontinent or the more severe deserts of Australia.

Another large steppe area is located in the central United States and western Canada. The High Plains steppe is the westernmost part of the Great Plains region. A significant steppe, noteworthy for not grading into desert, is the Sertão of northeastern Brazil.

Some steppes are to be found in transition zones between zones of Mediterranean climate and desert, such as Tijuana, Baja California, and in places cut off from adequate moisture due to rainshadow effects such as Zaragoza, Spain.

[edit] Bibliography

Ecology and conservation of Steppe-Land birds by Gerard Bota et al. International Symposium on Ecology and Conservation of Steppe-land Birds. Lynx Edicions 2005. 343 pages. ISBN 84-87334-99-7bg:Степ cs:Step da:Steppe (biotop) de:Steppe el:Στέπα es:Estepa eo:Stepo fr:Steppe io:Stepi it:Steppa he:ערבה (גאוגרפיה) nl:Steppe ja:ステップ (地形) no:Steppe ug:يايلاق pl:Step pt:Estepe ro:Stepă ru:Степь sl:Stepa fi:Aro sv:Stäpp vi:Thảo nguyên uk:Степ


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