A plain is a large area of flat land. It is one of the most common landforms on the earth’s surface. Throughout history, the plain has been a major population center. It has also been a major center for food production around the world.
Photo: the flat nature of a plain (Creative Commons: George-Raf).
Origins of the Plain
Plains are created in several different ways. They are the result of forces that build up or wear down the earth’s surface.
Lava Plains: plains can be created by lava flows and volcanic activity. Over a long period of time, many such flows can create a lava plain.
Alluvial Plains: another type of plain is formed by the activity of rivers. The flowing water picks up and then deposits sediment at lower elevations. In time, the sediment builds up and forms an alluvial fan or plain at the base of a mountain.
Loess Plains: as winds blow across a dry surface it can transport fine particles of soil. This wind-blown material is called loess. The deposited material may eventually form a level surface. In this manner, a loess plain or plateau can be created.
Flood Plains: when a river overflows and floods the surrounding area, it deposits sediment over the flooded area. This may produce a flood plain. Flood plains tend have fertile soils that are good for agriculture.
Vegetation and Plains
Grasslands: many plains are covered by grassland vegetation. The Great Plains of North America are grasslands. In temperate regions these grass covered plains are called praries or steppes.
In tropical regions, the grasslands are called savannahs. Africa’s Serengeti Plains and the Llanos of South America are savannah covered plains.
Other: although grasslands are common, plains may also be covered by forests, by tundra, or by desert vegetation.
Improving Your Reading and Thinking Skills
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Landforms, World Landforms.