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Plate Tectonics

  • By: Anne E. Mather
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Plate tectonics embraces the concepts of seafloor spreading (the creation of new oceanic crust at midoceanic ridges) and continental drift (the gradual movement of Earth's continents over geologic timescales) to provide a theory for the large-scale movements of Earth's lithosphere. This theory, together with the advent of remote imagery from satellite and aerial platforms, has led to a greater understanding of the large-scale geomorphology of Earth's crust. It has also helped us understand other aspects of physical geography, such as biogeography (which helps explain the distribution of biota across the globe), and emerging areas such as planetary geomorphology (which aids the identification of plate tectonic features on remote imagery of Mars). This entry outlines the theory of plate tectonics and its relevance to other physical ...

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