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West Beringia: Siberia and Kamchatka

West Beringia: Siberia and Kamchatka

Chapter:
(p.29) One West Beringia: Siberia and Kamchatka
Source:
Land Bridges
Author(s):
Alan Graham
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226544328.003.0002

Siberia is a vast (13 million square kilometers) and sparsely populated region (40 million people) with low physiographic relief allowing for cold, dry, and distinctly seasonal temperatures averaging from -68 to 37 degrees centigrade but with extremes as low as -89.9 degrees centigrade. It was explored in the early to mid-1700s by Vitus J. Bering who in 1741 made the first European landing in NW North America. Highlands are present in the Ural Mountains (ca. 1900 m) and in the volcanically active Kamchatka Peninsula. Otherwise, the topography is relatively low and flat contributing to early and intense glaciation beginning just after the middle Pliocene about 3.5 Ma and resulting in a net-eastward movement of the megafauna of mammoth, mastodon, bison and other animals. Seasonal and possible permanent human residents were in the region by 45,000 years ago and around 15,000 years ago they began moving into the New World. The Chukchi Eskimos (Siberia) and the Itelmens (Kamchatka) are descendants of these early people. The vegetation is mostly tundra (fungi, lichens, mosses, grasses, sedges, and dwarf trees) and boreal forest or taiga of fir, spruce, hemlock, pine, larch, birch, alder, poplar, and willow.

Keywords:   population, area, Vitus Bering, West Siberian Plain, Central Siberian Plateau, climates, soils, vegetation, people, Kamchatka

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