Peneplain

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Canisteo River Valley from Pinnacle State Park, New York. The distant peaks at the same elevation represent the remnants of a peneplain that was uplifted to form the Allegheny Plateau, which is a dissected plateau in southwestern New York. In this area, the sharp relief that is seen on some of the Allegheny Plateau has been rounded by glaciation.

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.[1]

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.

The peneplain concept was developed early in the 1900s by the geomorphologists William Morris Davis and Walther Penck.

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