Landforms: Coastal, Fluvial and Karst, Types of Landforms

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Landforms are distinct types of features on the Earth’s surface that are formed naturally and usually take a certain shape. The shape of each feature differs depending on the conditions of the region they are formed in. These shapes of landforms differentiate all these natural formations from each other and thus have been named accordingly.

The main examples of the various types of landforms are mountains, plains, plateaux, and valleys. The other types of landforms are coastal ones, such as peninsulas, and underwater structures, such as ocean ridges and basins.

What are Landforms?

The specific geographical features formed on the surface of the Earth due to various reasons are known as landforms. These features are a result of naturally occurring phenomena and can be classified based on their physical traits, such as the type of soil where they are formed, level of orientation, elevation, slope, etc. The size of these landforms may differ, and they affect the entire ecosystem and environment of the region.

There are several landforms that have been formed all through the years. They are formed mostly due to the activity of the tectonic plates, soil erosion, or weathering. Other natural occurrences, such as volcanic eruptions or varying weather conditions, can also impact these landforms in many ways.

Formation of Landforms

The formation of landforms occurs due to two kinds of phenomena that occur on the surface of the Earth. These are two kinds of processes that happen on the Earth’s surface, which are as follows:-

  • Internal Process: The internal process refers to the Earth’s movement, which results in the occasional rising and falling of the surface. It is also referred to as endogenic forces. A few examples are earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.
  • External Process: This process includes the weathering and erosion of the soil and the surface and redevelopment of the same. The external processes can further be divided into two stages erosion and deposition. These are also known as exogenic forces.

Types of Landforms

Many types of landforms form depending on various conditions and the structure of the Earth’s surface in a particular area. As Earth also is not the same everywhere and is characterized by different types of surfaces, there are a variety of landforms that are created. At some points, the surface of the Earth is even, and at other places, the surface might be rough and bumpy.

  • Glacial Landforms
  • Coastal Landforms
  • Volcanic Landforms
  • Fluvial Landforms
  • Karst Landforms

Check here the various types of landforms that exist on the Earth’s surface in various geographical locations of the world.

Glacial Landforms

Glacial landforms are a major type of landforms that are created as a result of the activity of glaciers. They are also an important topic for the UPSC exam. A glacial landform is a feature formed naturally due to ice flowing and water melting. These types of landforms are created in areas like Antarctica, Greenland, and other regions that consist of mountain ranges at much higher altitudes. These areas are called glaciated areas. Examples of these glacial landforms include the following –

  • Corries/ Cirque
  • Bergschrund
  • Hanging Valleys
  • Rock basins
  • Moraines
  • U-shaped glacial troughs

Coastal Landforms

These are the type of landforms that exist alongside coastal areas. The coastal landforms are formed as a consequence of various natural phenomena occurring on the coast. These landforms that exist in the coastal areas can be categorized into two types- Depositional and Erosional. A few examples of these landforms are-

  • Beaches with gentle slopes
  • Bays
  • Capes
  • Marine dunes
  • High cliffs
  • Sea cliffs

Volcanic Landforms

The landforms that are formed as a result of volcanic activity are called volcanic landforms. Constant activity is happening on the Earth’s surface, and volcanic eruptions constantly keep changing the Earth’s geographical conditions. They also result in the creation of new formations sometimes.

The volcanic landforms are formed depending on the place or area where exactly the molten magma coming out of the volcano cools down. Based on that, Volcanic landforms are also divided into two categories-

  • Intrusive Volcanic Landforms: These are the type of landforms that are formed when the molten hot magma gets cooled down inside the crust of the Earth. Examples are – Batholiths, Lacoliths, Lopoliths, Phacoliths, Sills and Sheets, and Dikes.
  • Extrusive Volcanic Landforms: These types of landforms are created when the molten lava solidifies on the outer area. This happens when all of the resultant products of the volcanic eruptions are oozed out of the surface. Examples of these types of volcanic landforms are- Cinder Cones, Conical Vent, Fissure Vent, Caldera, Composite-type Volcanic Landforms, Craters, Domes, and Flood Basalt.

Fluvial Landforms

These types of landforms are formed as a by-product of any erosional or depositional activity occurring in the rivers or streams. The landforms forming as a consequence of erosion happening in the rivers are called fluvial erosional landforms.

Popular examples of fluvial landforms are Oxbow lakes (U-shaped), Peneplain, Gully, Drainage basins, Island, Esker, Floodplain, Channel, Canyons, river delta, waterfalls, Yazoo stream, etc.

Karst Landforms

These types of landforms are formed due to the breaking up of solvable rocks like dolomite, limestone, and gypsum. The term karst is an English word with a Germanic origin and refers to various geographical features discovered in the Dinaric Alps.

The drainage systems found underground, along with the caves and sinkholes, are perfect examples of the Karst landforms or Karst topography. The kind of rocks that remain unaffected by the process of weathering, such as Quartzite, also come under the category of Karst landforms.

Major Landforms of the Earth

The major landforms of the Earth that contribute greatly to the surroundings as well are Mountains, Plateaus, and Plains. There are a number of landforms that are classified on the basis of various parameters. Therefore the major landforms on the basis of slope and elevation are mountains, plains, and plateaus.

  • Mountains: These are elevated structures that rise above the surface of the Earth and reach as high as 2000 ft. in altitude. Due to the higher altitudes, the climatic conditions in such mountainous regions are very different and tough to tackle. This is why vegetation and habitation rarely become easy here.
  • Plains: These are areas of flat land extending up to long distances. These are formed by rivers along with their tributaries. The fertility of these lands is high and therefore makes it easy to survive in. Plains are the most inhabited lands and climatic conditions also favor the survival of living beings.
  • Plateaus: These can be considered as a slight mix of both mountains and plains. Plateaus are both elevated and flat. They are the pieces of land that elevate themselves to a certain height. They are formed as a result of volcanic activity and are supposed to be rich in minerals. A big example of a plateau in India is the Deccan Plateau.

Landforms are, therefore, shapes that are formed out of the surface of the Earth due to various natural activities happening in the environment.

Landforms UPSC

The landforms is an essential topic of the UPSC exam. The types, formations, and major landforms of the Earth are an essential part of the IAS syllabus. A comprehensive knowledge of the topic is essential for the exam. The questions can be asked from this topic in the exam. The details of the topic will assist the candidates in gaining comprehensive knowledge and preparing well for the exam.

Landforms UPSC Question

Practising the questions will help the candidates in tracking their knowledge of the topic. You can also practise the previous year’s question papers to get complete details of the types of questions asked in the exam and will also get an ideation of the topic.

Question: The landforms Cirque, Arete, Moraines, Groove, and Flood Planes are related to which of the activities: [A] Fluvial Activity [B] Glacial Activity [C] Erosion Activity [D] Volcanic Activity

Answer: (Option C) Erosion Activity

Question: Where is the Larsemann Hills region found? [A] Australia [B] Antarctica [C] Moon [D] Europe

Answer: (Option B) Antarctica

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