Landform Use and Tectonic Plates

This Geography quiz tests your knowledge of landform use and tectonic plates. The Earth's crust is unstable, especially at the edges of tectonic plates. You are expected to know how these plate boundaries are distributed around the world and the key features of each type of boundary, including the landforms they produce. This overlaps with the human geography section of your studies as you also need to know how humans use the landscapes produced where plates meet.

There are three types of plate boundary - destructive, constructive and conservative. Constructive plate boundaries are mainly located under the seas and oceans of the world and are therefore not used by humans. Conservative boundaries are found on land as well as underwater and they generally don't form particularly specific landforms.

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Destructive plate boundaries produce terrestrial (land based) landforms that are challenging and useful to us - fold mountains and volcanoes. These are the two landforms of interest for the GCSE.

There are many communities living near to volcanoes, some of which are active, some dormant and others extinct. Some volcanic rocks weather to form soils that are fertile with plenty of nutrients, so the flanks of volcanoes are used for growing crops. Not every volcano is used in this way, there are some that are just too active or have not developed particularly good soils. An example of human use of a volcano is mount Vesuvius. It is the most densely populated volcano in the world with nearly half a million people living on or close to it. It attracts many tourists and so tourism is an important source of income locally. The soils are fertile enough for agriculture and there are a number of vineyards, market gardens, olive tree and fruit tree plantations in the area.

Fold mountains are created where the Earth's crust has been crumpled by the huge forces of plate tectonics and they are used in a wide variety of ways. They present many challenges and you need to be aware of some of these and how humans have overcome them. The two biggest challenges are communications and the weather. Chains of fold mountains that are formed at active plate boundaries are relatively young, so the mountains have not worn down. The weather is variable, extreme and can be very unpredictable. Their slopes are steep and often have vertical cliffs, so most lines of communication follow valleys as far as possible. Where they need to go up steep slopes, they have been built as zig-zags to reduce the gradients. Instead of going over mountains, some main roads and railways go through tunnels.

The harsh winter weather is used successfully by the winter sports tourism industry. During the summer, the mountains provide other income for the tourism industry as walkers and climbers enjoy visiting such areas. The spectacular scenery also attracts cyclists and motorists so there are many shops that sell outdoor equipment, local produce like honey and souvenirs.

Lakes formed in fold mountains are attractive to tourists too, you may have studied examples like Lake Garda in Italy or Lake Geneva on the border of France and Switzerland. In some places, where rainfall is high and the geology is just right, dams have been built to produce hydroelectric power. Agriculture has developed in sunny, sheltered areas like wide valleys and sunny lower slopes where all sorts of crops are grown.

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  1. Iceland is right on the constructive plate boundary between the Eurasian plate and the North American plate. Which of the following statements is correct?
    The magma that comes out of the volcanoes in Iceland heats up the ground sufficiently hot to be used for geothermal power stations
  2. Which of the following is NOT a direct human use of fold mountains?
    Tourism, agriculture and hydroelectric power generation are important uses of this landform. There could be mobile telephone manufacturing in urban areas that have developed in fold mountains, but they are not there because of the mountains
  3. The three types of plate boundary are:
    Each produces unique landform features
  4. Which of the following statements is NOT correct?
    Many volcanoes, including some which are dormant or still active attract tourists. This is possible because they are closely monitored so that volcanologists can say whether there is about to be an eruption
  5. On which slopes of fold mountains in the SOUTHERN hemisphere would agriculture be most likely to take place?
    In the southern hemisphere, the northern slopes are facing the Sun - it is the opposite to the northern hemisphere where the southern slopes are the sunniest
  6. In fold mountains, roads usually follow the line of which of the following features?
    Roads in valleys are less exposed to the weather and are easier to construct
  7. The management of coniferous forests is an important use of fold mountains. Which of the following is NOT a use of these forests?
    It is important to manage forests sustainably to ensure this renewable resource will continue to be available to future generations of humans
  8. Which of the following methods of generating electricity is MOST likely to be developed in a mountainous area?
    For the GCSE, you should associate geothermal energy generation with volcanic landforms. Fold mountains often have deep, steep-sided valleys which can easily be dammed to provide lakes for hydroelectric power schemes
  9. Which of the following features is created at a destructive plate boundary?
    Rift valleys are created where the Earth's crust is being pulled apart by tectonic movements, pillow lava is created at undersea constructive plate margins
  10. Why do people live near to active volcanoes?
    The fertile soils mean that farming will be more productive. There are long periods of time between eruptions so most of the time, the people living there are in no danger from the volcano. Volcanologists can usually give several days warning before an eruption

Author: Kev Woodward

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