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A peneplain is a low-relief plain representing the final stage of fluvial erosion during times of extended tectonic stability. The existence of peneplains, and peneplanation as a geomorphological process, is not without controversy, due to a lack of contemporary examples and uncertainty in identifying relic examples.
After the streams in an area have reached "base level", lateral erosion is dominant as the higher areas between the streams are eroded. Finally, the upland is almost gone: the stream floodplains merge in an area of very low to no topographic relief. The resulting flat plain is the ultimate stage in the cycle of erosion or geographical cycle.
The streams within a peneplained region show extensive meandering and braiding. If the area is subsequently uplifted due to adjacent orogenic processes, without internal deformation within the peneplain, the streams will again begin downward erosion - creating incised meanders, water gaps, and other unique geomorphic features.
A peneplain can be mistaken for a depositional plain. However, the rocks beneath a peneplain have been folded and tilted by tectonic forces, while the rocks beneath a depositional plain lie in horizontal layers.
- Phillips, Jonathan D. (2002), "Erosion, isostatic response, and the missing peneplains", Geomorphology, Vol. 45, No. 3-4. Elsevier, 15 June 2002, pp. 225-241. doi:10.1016/S0169-555X(01)00156-8.
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