8 junio, 2024

Steppe mountain range: what it is, characteristics, flora and fauna

What is the steppe mountain range?

The steppe mountain range It is an ecoregion of Peru, with extreme conditions in the mountainous areas of the central Andes, where the existence of complete ecosystems with perfectly adapted fauna and flora has been possible.

It is located in South America and extends along the western side of the Andes mountain range to the border area with Chile.

It is surrounded by equatorial dry forest to the north, the puna and high Andes to the east, and the Pacific desert of Peru to the west. It can be said that everything between the tree line of the mountain range and the snow line is part of the steppe range.

Peru is home to a large number of different ecosystems and climates, making it one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world.

Characteristics of the steppe mountain range

– The area was formed by volcanic activity and continuously suffers seismic activity.

– It is found approximately at altitudes between 1,000 and 4,000 meters above sea level.

– It is commonly associated with the cold desert due to lack of water, drought condition most of the time, constant sun and extreme temperatures resulting from the low annual rainfall.

– Rain is scarce, below 400 mm, with droughts of up to eight months. Rainfall occurs between December and March.

– The weather is extreme during the different seasons and depends on the altitude, as well as between day and night. Generally, it is dry-sunny during the day and cold at night.

– The terrain shows a formation of mountains with narrow valleys, large precipices, rocky landscapes and few plains. The land is fertile and rich in minerals, despite the extreme conditions.

Division of the steppe mountain range

The steppe mountain range is divided into four zones: semi-desert zone, low zone, middle zone and high zone, each one with a characteristic climate.

– The semi-desert steppe mountain range, with a height between 1,000 and 1,600 meters above sea level, has a temperate subtropical climate, that is, high temperatures and little rain.

– The low steppe mountain range is located between 1,600 and 2,600 meters above sea level, it is somewhat more humid, with less cold temperatures.

– The middle steppe mountain range is between 2,600 and 3,200 meters above sea level, it has a cold and dry climate in its semi-desert terrain, with low temperatures and constant sun.

– The high steppe mountain range has heights between 3,200 and 4,000 meters above sea level. Its climate is very cold, boreal and close to the tundra climate, but less humid.


Due to the extreme temperatures and particular conditions, the vegetation has adapted to survive in these extreme environments. Withstands hot temperatures during the day and cold temperatures at night.

In general, the vegetation is herbaceous, sparse, and low, exhibiting landscapes of extensive prairies adorned with mountainous terrain.

Some plants have been conditioned to accumulate water in their leaves, body and/or roots, as is the case with succulents.

The characteristic flora of the steppe sierra varies between species from tropical, semi-desert and páramo climates. Xerophytic vegetation can be found throughout the entire length of the steppe mountain range.

Some characteristic forms of plant life are the yareta, an evergreen species, native to South America, which grows at more than 3,000 meters above sea level, as well as the tiaca, also a South American tree.

The white grass, known as sand flower for its medicinal uses, is a flower native to South America, specifically from the Andes area. The cactaceous flora in general, almost always with a thorny texture, manages to live perfectly in these conditions.

The middle steppe mountain range, between 2,600 and 3,200 meters above sea level, presents sparse forest vegetation: trees and shrubs in sparse concentrations and quite separated from each other. Shrubs are usually no more than a meter tall.

You can find some types of trees, such as the huarango, an ancient tree of the legume family with properties to survive in the desert, the queñoa, belonging to the Rosaceae family native to the Andean zone, and the tola bushes, native from South America and known for its medicinal properties.

Wild choclo (wild corn) can also be found there. In the middle and upper areas of the steppe sierra you can find bromeliads, native to the American continent and famous for their large flowers and deep calyxes, like the achupallas.

Also living in this ecosystem are some grasses, cacti such as the prickly pear and the Peruvian torch, chochos and other diverse shrubs adapted to the cold and the scarcity of water.



The fauna is adapted to extreme conditions. For example, the Andean condor, the largest and heaviest bird in the world, can weigh up to 15 kilos. It can be found in the highest regions of the Andean mountains.

It lives in areas with strong air currents, which help it fly with little effort due to its weight.

There are also the Andean parakeet, the blue hummingbird, the reddish hummingbird, the cactus canastero and the puna tinamou or Andean kiula, a long land bird with rounded wings and short tail.

The region is home to the Andean flamingo, known as the large parina or chururu, which lives in large numbers or flocks around bodies of water. There are also birds of prey, such as the caracara in the high areas of the Andes, the dwarf owl and the small red falcon or quillincho.

Likewise, there are the puna ibis, common in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, the canastero maquis, which is a small brown bird that lives in the Andes, in eastern Bolivia, and is similar to the canary due to its size. and shape, and the Andean rhea.

The Andean rhea is not just any bird, as it is the smallest of its kind. It is a neotropical bird with brown and white feathers that inhabits the middle and upper areas of the mountains. It is adapted to harsh climatic conditions, and in Peru it is in danger of extinction.


The steppe mountain range is home to felines such as the puma and the wild cat, with broad tails and spotted or speckled fur. It is also inhabited by the Andean fox, deer, spectacled bear and bats.

The alpaca, the guanaco, the vicuña and the llama are mammal cousins ​​of the camels, which are very common in the steppe mountains. It is common to see them in large herds.

There are also the vizcacha (a species of rabbit), the red fox and various types of rodents.


Peru’s Geography and Climate. Peru Export and Tourism Promotion Board. Recovered from peru.travel.
Birds database (2010). Retrieved from neotropical.birds.cornell.edu.
Animals Database. National Geographics Partners. Retrieved from animals.nationalgeographic.com.

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