Daurian steppes are a vast region situated at the junction of the borders of three states – Russia, Mongolia and China. Among the Central Asian steppes Dauria is distinguished by the peculiarity of climatic conditions, relief, vegetation and wildlife.
Tens of millions years ago there was a subtropical sea here, it is proved by frequent findings of corals and sea mollusks of that time in the area. Later the relief of the area changed, the warm water body was replaced by the sea of grass. Today Dauria is real and meadow steppes, island-like pine forestry steppes, picturesque velvet hills and a lot of small warm salt lakes, the largest of which are the Torey lakes at the border of Russia and Mongolia, Lake Dalainor in China, Lake Buir-Noor at the border of Mongolia and China.
Daurian steppes situated at the altitude of 600 — 800 m above sea level belong to mountain steppes. Located in the centre of Eurasian continent, they are covered from the influence of oceans by the mountains of the Khentey, the Yablonovy and the Borshchovochny chains and the Great Khingan. The most part of the steppe Dauria is composed by depressions adjacent to lake hollows. They are alternated with flat as a table valleys or ridges of low hills. Some sharp-top peaks can reach 1,500 m above sea level.
Dauria is one of the driest and coldest regions of the Central-Asian steppes belt: annual precipitation here is 150 to 400 mm and annual temperature fluctuation can be up to 100? C. The largest water arteries of the region are the Onon, the Hailar-Argun, the Kherlen and the Uldza. The first two rivers are in the upper part of the Amur basin and belong to its sources together with the Ingoda and the Shilka. The Uldza fills the flowless Torey lakes.
Of special importance for Dauria is alternation of wet and droughty climatic periods that causes considerable change in distribution area and exterior of the ecoregion’s vegetation and wildlife. The most significant cycles within a century have the duration of about 30 years.
Some scientists suppose the Daurian steppes the most ancient on the Earth and once spread to the territory of present-day Yakutia, where you will see steppes similar to Daurian ones on the southern side of hills. Vegetation communities that have formed in Dauria are unique, rich in endemics and, unlike other steppe regions of the planet, have mostly preserved their pristine state. Different types of real and meadow steppes are recognized here with vegetation communities characteristic only for Dauria (among their number — tansy Tanacatum or Filifolium steppes, shrub communities with Siberian apricot Armeniaca sibirica and elm Ulmus and others). Herb and filifolium steppes of the north and east Dauria, alternated by endemic pine forests formed by Krylov pine and rare aspen-birch groves are changed to the south by dry grass and rocky steppes, this in its turn causes alteration of wildlife.
Abundance of small salt lakes rich in food attracts to Dauria millions of birds migrating along the East Asian -Australasian and Central Asian – Indian Flyways. The birds stop for rest here and many of them – for nesting. Moreover, in the Torey hollow migration route of many bird species is narrowed, it is the so-called “bottleneck”. It is because of the fact that in the north Dauria a thin stripe of rich in water bodies and food steppes comes into mountain forest zone poor in lakes and wetlands. So, in spring in the Torey lakes hollow stop approximately half of all Gray Plovers and Lesser Golden Plovers migrating along the East Asian – Australasian Flyway. The total number of migrants comes to three million individuals in spring and to six million – in fall.
Almost 360 bird species including representatives of mountain-taiga and tundra complexes stop in Dauria during their flight or nest, 25 species of them are put into IUCN Red Data List as globally vulnerable or endangered. Among them are 4 species of cranes (Siberian Crane, Japanese Crane, White-naped Crane and Hooded Crane), Great Bustard, Swan Goose, Baer’s Pochard, Baikal Teal, Relict Gull, Asiatic Dowitcher. For many species Daurian steppes are key habitats.
But Dauria grass sea is not only birds’ realm. In recent past Khulans, Przhewalski`s Wild Horse, Argali inhabited this area or were common here. Now in the steppe herds of thousands Dzerens or Mongolian Gazelles, most numerous in Eurasia, are still found. 98% animals of this species (about 980 thousand) live here. More than 50 mammal species inhabit this region, among them – Wild Cat Manul, Siberian Marmot, Daurian Hedgehog, Daurian and Manchurian Tsokor and many others. For many of them Dauria also remains a key or an only habitat.
Of interest is the history of human settling on this land. It is enough to say that it is Dauria steppe which is connected with the name of the great Chingis-khan. He was born and grown up here, here he gathered his troops, here, according to legends, is his burial place. Scientists are still disputing the question when people first came to Dauria. The remains of Stone, Iron and Bronze Ages settlements are rather frequent in the steppe. One can also see the traits of the so-called “Plate tombs culture”. In different times Dauria was inhabited by the Daurs, the Evenks, the Mongols, the Buryats, the Chinese and the Slavic peoples. Every people brought its features into the local culture and, in its turn, adopted unwritten laws of the steppe – hospitality, mutual help, moderation and patience. Rich pastures and winters with little snow contributed to the development of cattle-farming, first of all – sheep-breeding and horse-breeding. This branch of economy remains the main in the region up to now.
In 2000 World Wildlife Fund included Dauria steppes into 200 ecoregions of the planet, which have special importance for conserving life on the Earth. However, it is possible to preserve unique ecosystems only by joint efforts of many countries, first of all of those, on which territory this ecoregion is located.