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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

How a steppe is different from a step?

By Brett French The Billings Gazette

BILLINGS – A step can be when you put one foot in front of the other. It can also be a rise from one flat surface to another, like on a staircase. Dances may have fancy steps, or ways that you have to move your feet.

But what is a steppe? No, I didn’t spell it wrong. A steppe is something completely different than a step.

A steppe refers to a large area with short grasses and no trees. There’s one particular area, called the Eurasian steppe, that stretches from Hungary in the west across the Ukraine and Central Asia all the way to Manchuria in the east, about 5,000 miles long.

This is the largest temperate grassland in the world. Temperate means an area where the weather is fairly mild, where it’s neither too hot nor too cold. Because there were no trees, the Eurasian steppe has long been a popular way to travel in the region and therefore an important trade route.

Steppes are regions where the weather is so dry that trees can’t grow, but not dry enough to create a desert.

While steppe may be used to describe these areas in Eastern Europe and Asia, they sound a lot like our prairie or the African savannah. A savannah is a bit different because they are found in places with warmer temperatures, like the tropics. South America and Australia have savannahs.

The Great Plains is one of the largest prairie areas, stretching across 10 states and into Canada. The Great Plains are dry because the Rocky Mountains block the rain from falling, known as a rain shadow.

Sagebrush steppes are found in Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar, Hayden and Pelican Valley, as well as Gardner’s Hole. Unlike the temperate areas, sagebrush steppe survives hot summers and cold winters. They are usually found at higher elevations, but like the prairie are fairly flat. Almost half the state of Wyoming is considered sagebrush steppe.

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