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Major Landforms of Earth:

The forces present inside and outside the earth have the potential to change the shape of earth’s surface. We all know about the effects of geomorphic forces as the endogenic forces and exogenic forces can produce a lot of landforms. Simply put, a landform can be defined as a natural feature of the solid surface of the Earth. The examples include plateaus, mountains and plains.  In this article, we will give you an overview of the major landforms of earth to help you learn these concepts faster. Through this post, you will also understand the economic significance of mountains, plateaus and plains. If you are preparing for the UPSC exams, then you can definitely expect a lot of questions on this topic, so read the information carefully.


  • Mountains are among the major landforms of earth.
  • Mountains cover almost 27% of the world’s land surface.
  • Up to 80% of the planet’s fresh surface water comes from the mountains.
  • As per UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), around 12% of the world’s population lives in the mountains; however, more than 50% directly or indirectly depend on the various mountain resources.

Classification of Mountains

On the basis of their mode of formation, the mountains can be classified as:

  1. Fold Mountains
  2. Block Mountains
  3. Volcanic Mountains/ Accumulated Mountains
  4. Residual Mountains/ Relict Mountains

Economic Significance of Mountains

  • Storehouse of resources: Mountains are the main storehouses of natural resources. A huge number of resources of minerals like limestone, petroleum and coal are found in mountains. The mountains are also responsible for producing timber, lac, medical herbs, etc.
  • Production of hydro-electricity: Waters of perennial rivers in the mountains are required for generating hydro-electricity.
  • An abundant source of water: All the perennial rivers that arise in the snow-fed or heavily rain-fed mountains are the key sources of water. They also help promote the irrigation process and provide water for a lot of other purposes.
  • Formation of fertile plains: The Rivers originating from the high mountain ranges are responsible for bringing silt along with water to the lower valleys. This is quite helpful in producing fertile plains and expansion of agriculture and related activities.
  • Naturally-made political frontiers:The mountains also work as natural boundaries between two countries. They also play a major role in protecting the country from external threats.
  • Effects on climate:Mountains act as a climatic divide between two adjacent regions. They also are responsible for orogenic rainfalls, blocking of cold winds, and diversion.
  • Tourist centers:Over the years, the all-year-round pleasant climate and beautiful sceneries of the mountains have made such regions centers of tourist attraction.


  • Another of the major landforms of earth.
  • A plateau can be defined as an elevated area that has more or less leveled land on its top. It also consists of a large area on its top along with a steep slope on its sides.
  • Plateaus are also known as high plains or tablelands.
  • The plateaus cover about 18% of the earth’s land surface.

Classification of Plateaus

As per the geographical location and structure of rocks, the plateaus are of the following types:

  1. Intermontane Plateaus
  2. Piedmont plateaus
  3. Continental plateaus
  4. Volcanic plateaus
  5. Dissected plateaus

Economic Significance of Plateaus

  • Storehouse of minerals: Plateaus are responsible for providing most of the minerals in the world. The process of extracting minerals from plateaus is relatively simpler on plateaus as compared to mountains. Most of the industrial raw materials are attained from plateaus. We also obtain gold from the plateau of Western Australia; and copper, gold and diamond from the plateaus of Africa; and manganese, coal, iron and mica from the Chottanagpur Plateau in India.
  • Generation of hydel-power:The edges of plateaus are responsible for forming waterfalls, which are the ideal sites for generating hydel power.
  • Cool climate:Most of the higher parts of the plateaus, including tropical and sub-tropical regions, have a cool climate.
  • Animal rearing and agriculture:Plateaus generally consist of large grassland areas that are used for animal rearing especially sheep, goat, and cattle. When compared to other plateaus, the lava plateaus are richer in minerals and get used for agriculture as the soil is quite fertile.


  • We can safely conclude that Plains are the most major landforms of earth.
  • A plain can be simply defined as a low-lying, comparatively flat land surface that has a very gentle slope and minimum local relief.
  • Plains cover approximately 55% of the earth’s land surface.
  • Most of the plains have been created due to the deposition of sediments brought down by rivers.
  • Apart from rivers, some plains have also got created because of the action of the wind, tectonic activities and moving ice.

Classification of Plains

Plains can be classified on the basis of their mode of formation:

  1. Structural plain
  2. Erosional plains
  3. Depositional plains

Economic Significance of Plains

  • Fertile soil: Most plains generally consist of a deep and fertile soil. Since they have a flat surface, all the systems of irrigation can be developed effortlessly. This is exactly why plains are also known as the ‘Food baskets of the world’.
  • The growth of industries:Agro-based industries have got developed due to the rich agricultural resources, especially of alluvial plains. Since the plains are densely populated, a lot of labour is also available for the process of cultivation and it becomes easy to supply the workforce for the industries.
  • Development of the means of transportation:Thanks to the flat surface of plains, roads, airports and railway lines become easier to build.
  • Centers of civilizations:Plains are home to many civilizations.
  • Creating cities and towns:Because of the developed means of transportation on land and the growth of agriculture and industries in plains, a lot of cities and towns have been set up and they keep expanding. The world’s most developed trade centers and ports are often seen in the plains only and a staggering 80% of the world’s population lives here.

So, Mountains, Plateaus and Plains are the major landforms of earth. They are all classified into different sub-types and are also economically significant. Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Happy learning!

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