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The Kakanui Range dominates the eastern horizon of the Maniototo Plain of New Zealand

In geography, a plain, commonly known as flatland, is a flat expanse of land that generally does not change much in elevation, and is primarily treeless. Plains occur as lowlands along valleys or at the base of mountains, as coastal plains, and as plateaus or uplands. Plains are one of the major landforms on earth, being present on all continents and covering more than one-third of the world's land area. Plains in many areas are important for agriculture. There are various types of plains and biomes on them.

Montane plains as seen in Horton Plains in Sri Lanka.


A plain or flatland is a flat expanse of land with a layer of grass that generally does not change much in elevation, and is primarily treeless. Plains occur as lowlands along valleys or at the base of mountains, as coastal plains, and as plateaus or uplands.[1] Plains are one of the major landforms on earth, where they are present on all continents, and cover more than one-third of the world's land area.[2]

In a valley, a plain is enclosed on two sides, but in other cases a plain may be delineated by a complete or partial ring of hills, by mountains, or by cliffs. Where a geological region contains more than one plain, they may be connected by a pass (sometimes termed a gap). Coastal plains mostly rise from sea level until they run into elevated features such as mountains or plateaus.[3] Plains can be formed from flowing lava; from deposition of sediment by water, ice, or wind; or formed by erosion by the agents from hills or mountains.

Biomes on plains include grassland (temperate or subtropical), steppe (semi-arid), savannah (tropical) or tundra (polar). In a few instances, deserts and rainforests may also be considered plains.[4]

Plains in many areas are important for agriculture because where the soils were deposited as sediments they may be deep and fertile, and the flatness facilitates mechanization of crop production; or because they support grasslands which provide good grazing for livestock.[5]

Types of plain

A small, incised alluvial plain from Red Rock Canyon State Park (California).
A flood plain in the Isle of Wight.

Depositional plains

The types of depositional plains include:

Erosional plains

Erosional plains have been leveled by various agents of denudation such as running water, rivers, wind and glacier which wear out the rugged surface and smoothens them. Plain resulting from the action of these agents of denudation are called peneplains (almost plain) while plains formed from wind action are called pediplains.[13]

Structural plains

Structural plains are relatively undisturbed horizontal surfaces of the Earth. They are structurally depressed areas of the world that make up some of the most extensive natural lowlands on the Earth's surface.[14]

Curry County, eastern New Mexico, on the North American Great Plains

Notable examples

See also: Category: Plains by country

The Pampas are a huge area of fertile grasslands in the southeastern area of South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean
Nineveh Plains (Bozan, Iraq)
A field plain in Liminka, Finland
View of Fields at Biccavolu, Eastern coastal plains, Andhra Pradesh, India
Yilan Plain, Taiwan
View of the South Småland peneplain at Store Mosse National Park in Sweden.
North Somerset Levels taken from Dolebury Warren, England, UK
Terrain near the central German town of Fulda.
The Wallachian Plain, in the southern part of Argeș County.
View of Messara from the hill of Phaestus, Greece.
Cumberland Plain bushland in Western Sydney, Australia.
Looking southeast across the Taieri Plain, Otago, New Zealand.


Caribbean and South America

North America


Eastern Asia

North Asia

South Asia

Western Asia


Central Europe

Eastern Europe

Northern Europe

Southern Europe



New Zealand

See also


  1. ^ Rood, Stewart B.; Pan, Jason; Gill, Karen M.; Franks, Carmen G.; Samuelson, Glenda M.; Shepherd, Anita (2008-02-01). "Declining summer flows of Rocky Mountain rivers: Changing seasonal hydrology and probable impacts on floodplain forests". Journal of Hydrology. 349 (3–4): 397–410. Bibcode:2008JHyd..349..397R. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2007.11.012.
  2. ^ Geoff C. Brown; C. J. Hawkesworth; R. C. L. Wilson (1992). Understanding the Earth (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-521-42740-1. Archived from the original on 2016-06-03.
  3. ^ Whittow, John (1984). Dictionary of Physical Geography. London: Penguin. p. 467. ISBN 978-0-14-051094-2.
  4. ^ Gornitz, Vivien, ed. (2009). Encyclopedia of Paleoclimatology And Ancient Environments. Dordrecht: Springer. p. 665. ISBN 9781402045516.
  5. ^ Powell, W. Gabe. 2009. Identifying Land Use/Land Cover (LULC) Using National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) Data as a Hydrologic Model Input for Local Flood Plain Management. Applied Research Project, Texas State University.
  6. ^ Goudie, A. S., ed. (2004). "Denudation chronology". Encyclopedia of Geomorphology. pp. 244–248.
  7. ^ Vinogradova, N.G. (1997). "Zoogeography of the Abyssal and Hadal Zones". The Biogeography of the Oceans. Advances in Marine Biology. Vol. 32. pp. 325–387. doi:10.1016/S0065-2881(08)60019-X. ISBN 9780120261321.
  8. ^ "Glossary of Landform and Geologic Terms" (PDF). National Soil Survey Handbook—Part 629. National Cooperative Soil Survey. April 2013. Archived from the original on 22 October 2016. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  9. ^ Magilligan F.J., Gomez B., Mertes L.A.K., Smith, L.C. Smith N.D., Finnegan D., Garvin J.B., Geomorphic effectiveness, sandur development, and the pattern of landscape response during jökulhlaups: Skeiðarársandur, southeastern Iceland, Geomorphology 44 (2002) 95–113
  10. ^ Smith L.C., Sheng Y., Magilligan F.J., Smith N.D., Gomez B., Mertes L., Krabill W.B., Garven J.B., Geomorphic impact and rapid subsequent recovery from the 1996 Skeiðarársandur jökulhlaup, Iceland, measured with multi-year airborne lidar. Geomorphology vol. 75 Is. 1–2 (2006) 65–75
  11. ^ United States. Department of Conservation. Division of Geology. Glacial Sluceways and Lacustrine Plains of Southern Indiana. By William D. Thornburry. Bloomington: n.p., 1950. Web. <"Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-12-16.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>.
  12. ^ "Lava Plateaus". Archived from the original on 2013-11-14. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
  13. ^ Migoń, Piotr (2004). "Planation surface". In Goudie, A.S. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Geomorphology. pp. 788–792.
  14. ^ "Pediplain". Encyclopedia Britannica.