A plain is a large, flat landform that does not change much in elevation. They are found all over the Earth and on other planets. Plains are landforms common to many biomes.
What types of plains are there?
Plains are categorized by the way they form. One type is called a structural plain. These are areas of the earth that have been undisturbed since the Earth was first formed.
The most diverse type of plain is the depositional plain. These form when material is deposited to a new area by water, wind, or by glaciers. Plains can be made of many types of material. This can make them look very different from one another. One type of the depositional plain is the alluvial plain. These form when a river deposits sediment in its flood plain. Another subtype is the lava plain. As lava flows over a large land area due to volcanic activity, it cools and hardens. The resulting flat area will break down over many years. This will leave behind a large, flat area of fertile soil.
When glacial movement creates a plain, it is called a glacial plain. As a glacier moves down a slope, it carries a lot of material with it. As the glacier melts, it will leave sediment behind. The glacier clears a large area, which results in a flat space that will be filled with sediment.
Where can you find plains?
You can find an example of a plain in every biome on earth.
In tundra biomes, plains are very unforgiving places. In the wintertime, freezing wind blows across the land. There are no trees, and very little plant life. Many animals still survive here, like reindeer. But how? In the summertime, the ice thaws. The ground that was once frozen becomes filled with grass. Animals eat this grass as they prepare for the winter.
Deserts are another good example of plains. Not all of the desert is covered in giant mounds of sand! There are some areas where the wind has eroded most of the sand. This leaves behind a large, flat area. Small pebbles and rocks cover these plains. Like the tundra, these plains are also difficult to live in. There are few places to hide from the desert sun, and water is scarce.
The Great Plains
The largest example of a plain in the United States are the Great Plains. This area is more than 180 million acres in size. The Great Plains stretch across five states and two Canadian provinces. They were settled by Native Americans thousands of years ago.
Since then, humans have continued to use the plains for ranching and farming. The Great Plains support a huge diversity of wildlife. In ancient times, mammoths and saber-toothed tigers roamed the land. Nowadays, you would see things like bison and prairie dogs.
Other Great Resources
National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/plain/
The Nature Conservancy: