Species and Habitat |
The Pseudo-Steppe in Portugal
A Habitat to preserve

The real steppes occur mainly on the vast plains of Mongolia, Siberia, Russia and China, where the low temperatures, the reduced precipitation and the poor soil produce vegetation composed by low herbaceous plants, even lower than the ones on American prairies and that, in terms of landscape, present some similarities with the African savannas.       
The term steppe derives from the Russian word “stepj” which means absence of trees, and occurs in low relief landscapes dominated by plains.
In Portugal there are no real steppes but the centenary existence of extensive farming “created” a habitat of similar characteristics, located essentially in the Alentejo plains.Agriculture based on rotation between the production of dry cereal crops (such as wheat, oat or barley) intercalated with the existence of fallow lands, in which the land “rests” in order to recover its fertility and is simultaneously used as pasture, led to the creation of a habitat similar to the one in the steppe, which is called pseudo-steppe or cereal steppe because it was originated by human action.
During the last centuries many species, including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects, adapted themselves to this habitat, forming an ecosystem that relies on the maintenance of traditional farming activity.The Great Bustard, the Little Bustard and the Lesser Kestrel are only three of the species considered as “steppe species” because they depend on the preservation of this type of habitat and function as symbols for the conservation of this unique ecosystem.