Definitions

Alluvial plain

Alluvial plain

An alluvial plain is a relatively flat landform created by the deposition of sediment over a long period of time by one or more rivers coming from highland regions, from which alluvial soil forms. A floodplain is part of the process, being the smaller area over which the rivers flood at a particular period of time, whereas the alluvial plain is the larger area representing the region over which the floodplains have shifted over geological time.

As the highlands erode due to weathering and water flow the sediment from the hills is transported to the lower plain. Various creeks will carry the water further to a river, lake, bay, or ocean. As the sediments are deposited during flood conditions in the floodplain of a creek, the elevation of the floodplain will be raised. As this reduces the channel floodwater capacity, the creek will over time seek new, lower paths, forming meanders (a curving sinuous path). The leftover higher locations, typically natural levees at the margins of the flood channel, will themselves be eroded by lateral stream erosion and from local rainfall and possibly wind transport if the climate is arid and does not support soil-holding grasses. These processes over geologic time will form the plain - a region with little relief (local changes in elevation), yet with a constant but small slope.

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