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Earth's surface morphology is primarily the result of interaction between plates moved by seafloor spreading and/or intraplate tectonic/magmatic processes. Once the youthful endogenetic (tectonic/magmatic) terranes are isolated from inter/intraplate influences as a result of long-continued lateral migration or changes in geometry, exogenetic processes (erosion and deposition) subdue and reduce the original relief. The rate of this modification and the nature of the geologic processes involved in it are controlled by climate, which may change with time or with migration of the plates across climatic zones, and by oscillations in sea level. Whether a terrane can reach an old-age stage in the geomorphic cycle depends upon its isolation from plate activity long enough for non-tectonic processes to complete its degradation. The low relief of ancient terranes in Precambrian shields is a clear indication that the geomorphic cycle can come to completion.

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