Major landforms include plains, plateaus, hills and mountains, whereas minor landforms encompass smaller natural features such as buttes, canyons, valleys and basins. These landforms came about as the result of erosion on the earth's surface and tectonic plate activity beneath that surface over a long period of time.
Plains are flat expanses of land that usually exist at a lower altitude than the surrounding landscape. A plain usually has little change in elevation within it. Examples of plain habitats include forests and grasslands. Plateaus are also flat expanses of land, but they exist on a higher plane than the surrounding landscape. Plateaus often connect with the surrounding landscape by means of steep slopes.
Hills and mountains are both elevated landforms, with mountains being the higher of the two. They distinguish themselves from plateaus by having a round or steep summit. Buttes are individual, raised natural features that emerge from an otherwise flat landscape.
Canyons, valleys and basins are all low-lying natural features. Valleys exist in the shadows of surrounding hills or mountains. Canyons are a type of valley with steep walls, often carved by a waterway. Basins are depressions in the earth. Additional examples of landforms are the mesa, glacier and loess.