Land relief

The name of terrestrial relief receives all those forms that the earth’s crust manages to acquire as a result of the movements that occur in the tectonic plates or, by the modeling that the earth undergoes by means of external agents such as rain, the wind, the waves of the sea and the erosion. It also refers to the different horizontal and vertical versions that we can observe on the surface of the earth. To describe the terrain of the earth, factors such as slope , elevation, and orientation are used.from the earth. Land relief can affect the flow and distribution of water and over large areas, land relief can often affect the climate of the area.

What is land relief?

The terrestrial relief are the different forms that can be observed on our planet at its surface level and also in different places that cannot be seen with the naked eye, such as the seabed .

  • Characteristics of the land relief
  • Elements of the terrestrial relief
  • Training
  • Factors that modify the land relief
  • Types
  • Representation
  • Importance of land relief
  • Examples

Characteristics of the land relief

The land relief has different characteristics that we mention below:

  • It is characterized by having large flat areas .
  • Some of the land relief areas have suffered erosion to almost sea level.
  • It has several elevated regions of deformed rocks that form the different mountain belts .
  • Most places planes usually found on the inside of the continents.
  • Young mountain belts are long and narrow .
  • It directly influences the different forms of human activity .
  • It is part of determining the climate of a region.
  • It is also present on the seabed .

Elements of the terrestrial relief

Some elements that make up the land relief are the following:

  • Mountains : They are a series of elevations of the land.
  • Hills : they are considered small mountains.
  • Mountain ranges : they are high and extensive elevations of land.
  • System : they are the set of high elevations and are divided into mountains.
  • Depression : they are quite low and flat areas that are located between the high lands.
  • Plain : these are completely flat areas that do not have elevations or subsidence.
  • Plateau : they are a type of high area and but at the same time it is flat at the top.
  • Massif : they are considered old mountains that have been subjected to great erosion processes.
  • Cabo : they are the land projections that go into the sea.
  • Gulf : they are the different entrances of the sea into the land.
  • Bahia : they are a kind of gulf, but smaller.
  • Delta : it is a piece of land that is formed at the mouth of a river by the dragging of land.
  • Estuary : it is an area that the sea is responsible for excavating at the mouth of a river.


The main theory that exists about the formation of the Earth’s relief is the theory of plate tectonics . According to this theory, the crust is made up of different plates, each of which move at a slow speed, and during these movements, they collide causing the appearance of new areas or reliefs, or the destruction of the same.

Factors that modify the land relief

The land relief can be modified by various agents, for example:

  • Geological agents : changes that the earth’s crust undergoes and that can be endogenous or internal.
  • Tectonic plates : when they collide they cause destruction of the relief.
  • Volcanism : release of the internal energy of the earth that expels magma, when it solidifies, it results in new landforms.
  • Erosion : it is the wear suffered by the surface of the earth by water, rain , seas, wind and by man.
  • Weathering : it is the disintegration of rocks by static agents.


The land relief is divided into several types depending on several factors, these factors are:

  • According to the morphology and altimetry : it  can be terrestrial or underwater . The submarine relief would have the floors of the seas, the oceanic ridges, the continental slope and the abyssal zone. The continental relief includes the continents and islands. We can find the plains, plateaus, mountains, depressions and basins.
  • According to the magnitude:  we find the ancient massifs that were created during the Precambrian and are the oldest forms of relief that exist, the basins or plains which are not very rugged and low terrain and most are created by the dragging of sediments , and the Recent mountain ranges that formed during the Cenozoic and are generally found near the Pacific such as the Alps, Andes, and Himalayas.
  • According to its location:  examples of this are the continental relief that includes elevated and depressed forms of a surface and the oceanic relief that is located at the bottom of the ocean and is also called marine relief.


The representation of the land relief of the earth is done by means of maps . These maps usually represent landforms by contour lines , which are a set of imaginary lines that connect points cutting the land surface in horizontal planes and regular intervals . These curves are then projected on the plane to represent the orography of the terrain.

Importance of land relief

First, the land relief is responsible for determining its suitability for human habitat . Flat, smooth land is normally good for living, while steep land is not. It is of great importance in terms of agriculture because it allows us to know the movement of water, the characteristics of the drainage and the limits of the basin, necessary for the growth of plants. It helps to do studies for soil conservation and, lastly, it is closely related to weather patterns . Differences in elevation and the nature of the terrain influence temperature and precipitation levels .


Some examples of land relief are the following:

  • Ural mountains
  • Great European field
  • Alps
  • Balsas River Basin
  • Tibet plateau
  • Andean Highlands
  • Great Plain of America

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