The word steppe (borrowed into English from Russian степь, meaning "low lying land"), is usually applied to the wide, treeless grasslands that extend across northern Eurasia, especially Siberia.
Similar landscapes in other parts of the world can be called steppes generically, but have local names: veld in southern Africa, prairies in North America, pampas in South America, and so on.
Depending upon the amount of moisture available, steppes may range from slightly wooded to semi-desert, with appropriately varying agricultural possibilities.
Archaeologically, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish former tundra from former steppe lands in the far north, especially in previously coastal areas now below the sea, and there has been some disagreement over the years about whether Beringia, for example, provided largely a steppe or largely a tundra environment.
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Content Revised: 2002-08-22
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