Pontic-Caspian Steppe

The Pontic-Caspian Steppe is the massive steppeland that stretches from the northern shores of the Black Sea as far east as the Caspian Sea, from western Ukraine across the Southern Federal District and the Volga Federal District of Russia to western Kazakhstan, creating part of the larger Eurasian steppe, adjacent to the Kazakh steppe towards the east. It’s a portion of the Palearctic temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregion of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands Biome.

Across several millennia, the steppe was utilized by a number of tribes of nomadic horsemen, many of which went on to conquer lands in the settled regions of Europe and in western and southern Asia.

The term Ponto-Caspian region is used in biogeography for plants and animals of these steppes, and animals from the Caspian, Black, and Azov seas. Genetic research has recognized this region as the most probably place where horses were first domesticated.

This region covers an area of 384,000 square miles, stretching from eastern Romania across southern Moldova, Russia, Ukraine and northwestern Kazakhstan to the Ural Mountains. The Pontic steppe is surrounded by the East European forest steppe to the north, a transitional zone of mixed grasslands and temperate broadleaf and mixed forests.

Towards the south, the Pontic steppe extends to the Black Sea, excepting the Crimean and western Caucasus Mountains’ border with the sea, where the Crimean Submediterranean forest complex defines the southern edge of the steppes.

The Ponto-Caspian seas are the remains of the Turgai Sea, which is an extension of the Paratethys which extended south and east of the Ural Mountains and covering much of today’s West Siberian Plain in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic.

Image Caption: vegetational zones in the Pontic/Caspian region. Credit: Dbachmann/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)