What Is a Dissected Plateau?

The Catskill Mountains in New York state are an example of a dissected plateau.

A plateau is flat, elevated land area that rises above the surrounding terrain. Sometimes the raised land is constantly eroded and breaks into several smaller raised pieces and valleys. A dissected plateau is a plateau that has been intensely eroded so that the relief becomes sharp. Weathering, erosion, and denudation of the flat land results in the formation of dissected plateaus. The eroded region tends to appears mountainous or as hilly slopes and valleys. While standing on a dissected plateau, it is evident that the ‘mountains’ are almost the same level in height, which indicates the previous level of the plateau prior to erosion.

Formation of Dissected Plateaus

A dissected plateau may be formed on a small scale through the leveling of terrain by an ice sheet or ice cap. Originally, a dissected plateau looks like a normal plateau, which is simply a raised flat land. But eventually the plateau is broken up into many small plateaus that look like little mountains with valleys and streams between them. Natural environmental elements, such as wind, running water, rock particles carried by water, and glaciers lead to erosion of the soft rocks. The resistant, dense, and steadfast rocks are remain since the weathering agents are not strong enough to erode them completely. This process leads to the formation of a dissected plateau. As a result of upward movement in the earth’s crust, a dissected plateau is formed. The uplift is as a result of the collision of tectonic forces.

Common examples of dissected plateaus include: the Alleghany Plateau, Ozark Plateau, Cumberland Plateau, Colorado Plateau, Catskill Mountains (USA); Chatapada Plateau (Brazil); the Pajarito Plateau (New Mexico); and the Blue Mountains (Australia).

Significance of Dissected Plateaus

A dissected plateau provides attractive scenery for tourist attractions. It is amazing to look at the rugged terrain and the ‘flat little mountains.’ They also harbor waterfalls that create opportunities for sporting activities and tourist attractions. Soil fertility is enhanced during the formation of a dissected plateau. Although plateaus are formed around hard rocks that cannot support agriculture, lava deposition that occurs during the weathering process provides fertile grounds for agriculture. Minerals are a normal occurrence in dissected plateaus, and during the weathering process, minerals like gold, copper, and iron may be carried along. Dissected plateaus provide good terrain for animal-rearing, as the grasslands and streams caused by the formation of a dissected plateau form good rearing grounds for livestock like sheep and goats. Plateaus are a very defensible area as they are high and flat, which gives tourists the ability to see long distances. Although the dissected plateau is of great benefit, the erosion process tends to be continuous and may result in landslide, and therefore residing on the plateaus can be very dangerous for humans.


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