Distribution of Plants & Animals in Russia & Central Asia

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

The distribution of plants and animals in Russia and Central Asia is affected by the region's climate and geographical features. Learn about the climates of Central Asia and Russia and the distribution of organisms in the northern, middle, and southern regions. Updated: 11/09/2021

Climates of Central Asia & Russia

Central Asia and Russia contain six countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The area contains around 211 million people in total as of 2014, but it is also home to billions of plants and animals. Today, we're going to talk about some of the most important ones.

When it comes to plants and animals, climate is pretty important. Unlike humans, animals don't say to themselves, 'You know what? It seems a bit chilly around here. We should wear the skin of that animal over there.' They can't adapt in the way humans can. So their biggest defense is to move to a new area. The animals and plants you find in an area, particularly plants that aren't exactly mobile, are different depending on the climate type you're looking at.

Asia has a total of 10 main climate types (25 if you include every subtype). If we focus on the subject of today's lesson - Central Asia and Russia - we simplify the picture to five climates: semiarid, desert, humid continental, subarctic, and tundra. You might notice how varied these are, from dry deserts in the south to wet areas in the middle to snowy polar places in the far north. It's like a climate sandwich and each has its own plants and animals.

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  • 0:00 Central Asia & Russia Climates
  • 1:20 Plants & Animals of the North
  • 2:45 Plants & Animals in the Middle
  • 3:10 Plants & Animals of the South
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Plants and Animals of the North

The north of Russia is much like the south in one important way: it's super dry. But in this case, it's a cold, arctic kind of dry. In the tundra areas, there is little to no plant cover at all and only lichens, moss, and occasional shrubs are present in much of this area. The sea is king in this part of Russia, and so what animals you do find tend to rely on it in one way or another. For example, you get a lot of seals, walruses, and sea birds.

As you head farther south, you start to find a little more. Where there are forests, they're mostly birches and willows that have grown to dwarf heights due to the dry conditions and thin soil. But animals become more common including reindeer, hares, arctic foxes, and birds, like ptarmigans.

Farther south into the subarctic areas, forests start to boom big time. The vast Taiga Forest covers half of Russia and contains birches and spruce first, followed by pine, fir, cedar, and deciduous trees as you continue south. Having more forest means that more animals can be supported, from moose to bears to squirrels, lynx, and a ton of birds. And in the southern deciduous forests, you find wild boar, marten, and many types of deer.

Plants and Animals in the Middle

The middle of the region is characterized by the humid subtropical climate. This includes southern and western Russia, and parts of Kazakhstan. Here, the north trees give way for oak, aspen, and birch, and more animals and birds. Eagles, skylarks, and cranes can even be found in these areas. There are most likely more animals of every type in this area, including insects, but we don't have good information on exactly which smaller animals are present where.

Plants and Animals of the South

Central Asia is made up of the countries often described as the '-stans,' though Afghanistan is usually not considered to be included. These countries are collectively very dry, though the north of Kazakhstan does have some humid continental climates. The result of all this is that the area contains a mix of plains and deserts, with very little wooded areas. Kazakhstan might be described as grass, grass, and more grass; grasslands as far as the eye can see. But you can also find tulips, thistles, sage, and poppies.

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