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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Professor Yaoling Niu

Niu, Yaoling (2018). Geological understanding of plate tectonics: Basic concepts, illustrations, examples and new perspectives. Global Tectonics and Metallogeny 10(1): 23-46.

Author(s) from Durham


In this paper, I have reviewed some basic concepts of the plate tectonics theory in a plain geological language with the aim of encouraging geologists to correctly understand this theory in its applications to geological problems. I emphasized the decisive role of subduction as the ultimate (dominant) driving force of all the plate tectonics phenomena. Hence, my discussion has focused on major issues such as the origin of subduction zones, slab rollback, trench retreat, trench suction and driving mechanism of plate motion (both oceanic and continental) by means of illustration with hypothetical and real examples. As much of the discussion is heavily based on my personal (original) perspectives, some of the concepts, interpretations and hypotheses may not be familiar to many and may not be readily found in the existing literature. Mantle plume hypothesis is not the focus of this paper and is thus only mentioned in passing.