The theory of plate tectonics has greatly contributed to our understanding of the earth. Comment. (150 W/ 10 M)

Mentor’s Comment:

In the intro, start with the description of plate tectonic theory.

In the main body you will  have to discuss the importance of theory in understanding rock formations and their eventual fate; evolutionary ecology of species; impact of climate change throughout our history; geography of the continents and how they got assembled and will disassemble; explanation of nearly all of Earth’s major surface features and activities, faults and earthquakes, volcanoes and volcanism, mountains and mountain building, and even the origin of the continents and ocean basins; what is happening in earth’s mantle and core which is out of bound of human so far.

Because this is a wide question and you will have many points to ponder upon, it will be better to use flowchart to cramp in most points. It will fetch you more marks.

In the end, you will have to describe that how plate tectonic theory is still a work in progress and how it keeps us helping with our knowledge of our earth with more clarity.

Model Answer:

According to Theory of Plate tectonics, continents as well as oceans as we see them today are rested on the gigantic plates beneath them, called oceanic plates and continental plates. These plates are in continuous motion since millions of years to date but the amount of displacement is unrecognisable for a short span of time period. These plates move due to presence of molten lava flowing under them. The theory also describes convergence (destruction of features) and divergence zone (construction of new features) based on the movement of plates which are when two plates meet or diverge respectively. It explained the presence of oceanic ridges and long range mountains deep inside oceans

Volcanic activity, earthquakes, mountain-building and oceanic trench formation occur along these plate boundaries. Plate tectonics affects humans in several important ways.

  • It causes earthquakes
  • It causes volcanism
  • It induces recycling of elements within the biosphere and between the geosphere and biosphere
  • It causes mountain-building

Significance of Plate Tectonics Theory

  • For the earth scientists, it is a fundamental principle of the Earth to study.
  • For physical geographers, this approach is an aid in interpretation of landforms.
  • New minerals are thrown up from the core with the magmatic eruptions.
  • Economically valuable minerals like copper and uranium are found more frequently near the plate boundaries.
  • On the basis of present knowledge of crustal plate movement, the shape of landmasses in future can be guessed.
  • For instance, if the present trends continue, North and South America will separate. A piece of land will separate from the east coast of Africa. Australia will move closer to Asia.
  • It is practical knowledge in the sense that we know why some parts of the world are inherently risky to live in.
  • Even though volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are difficult to predict, it makes sense to have building codes and emergency plans that take this into account.
  • It is science’s response to the beliefs that natural catastrophes (volcanism, earthquakes and tsunamis) are divine punishments for the evil ways of some individuals.
  • Knowing about the theory of plate tectonics gives you a current scientific perspective on what we know about the natural world.
  • It is a good example of how scientific theories proceed by trying to fit several observations into a coherent explanation.

The most important aspect of the plate theory has been that they are practical and we can actually see them working. The theory has indeed helped us to understand our Earth in a better way. Plate tectonic theory is still a work in progress but it keeps us helping with our knowledge of our earth with more clarity.  The study and understanding of plate tectonics has led more understanding of earth’s surface and its related activities such as earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain building, ocean basin.


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