A landform comprises a geomorphological unit. They are largely defined by their surface form and location in the landscape, as part of the terrain, and as such, they are also studied as elements of topography.

Landforms are categorised by characteristics such as elevation, slope, orientation, stratification, rock exposure, and soil type. Landforms by name include berms, mounds, hills, cliffs, valleys, and so forth. Oceans and continents exemplify highest-order landforms. Landform elements are parts of a landform that can be further identified. Landform elements, such as hill-top, shoulder, backslope etc, can be observed on many various geomorphological landforms. The generic landform elements are: pits, peaks, channels, ridges, passes, pools, planes etc, and can be often extracted from a digital elevation model using some automated or semi-automated techniques[1].

Elementary landforms (segments, facets, relief units) are the smallest homogeneous divisions of the land surface, at the given scale/resolution. These are areas with relatively homogenuous morphometric properties, bounded by lines of discontinuity. A plateau or a hill can be observed at various scales ranging from few hundred meters to hundreds of kilometers. Hence, the spatial distribution of landforms is often fuzzy and scale-dependent as is the case for soils and geological strata.

A number of factors, ranging from plate tectonics to erosion and deposition can generate and affect landforms. Biological factors can also influence landforms—see for example the role of plants in the development of dune systems and salt marshes, and the work of corals and algae in the formation of coral reefs.

Many of the terms are not restricted to refer to features of the planet Earth, and can be used to describe surface features of other planets and similar objects in the Universe.

List of landforms

Slope landforms

Coastal and oceanic landforms

File:Accreting coast Image6.png

Fluvial landforms

Mountain and glacial landforms

Volcanic landforms

Erosion landforms

Landforms produced by erosion and weathering usually occur in coastal or fluvial environments, and many appear above under those headings. Some other erosion landforms that do not fall into the above categories include:

  • Deposition landform -- landforms produced by deposition of load or sediment (usually coastal or fluvial).
  • Eolian landform - landforms produced by wind weathering.

See also


  1. Automated landform classification using DEMs

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