Types of plate boundaries
Three types of plate boundary.
Main article: List of tectonic plate interactions
Basically, three types of plate boundaries exist, with a fourth, mixed type, characterized by the way the plates move relative to each other. They are associated with different types of surface phenomena. The different types of plate boundaries are:
Transform boundaries (Conservative) occur where plates slide or, perhaps more accurately, grind past each other along transform faults. The relative motion of the two plates is either sinistral (left side toward the observer) or dextral (right side toward the observer). The San Andreas Fault in California is an example of a transform boundary exhibiting dextral motion.
Divergent boundaries (Constructive) occur where two plates slide apart from each other. Mid-ocean ridges (e.g., Mid-Atlantic Ridge) and active zones of rifting (such as Africa's East African Rift) are both examples of divergent boundaries.
Convergent boundaries (Destructive) (or active margins) occur where two plates slide towards each other commonly forming either a subduction zone (if one plate moves underneath the other) or a continental collision (if the two plates contain continental crust). Deep marine trenches are typically associated with subduction zones, and the basins that develop along the active boundary are often called "foreland basins". The subducting slab contains many hydrous minerals, which release their water on heating; this water then causes the mantle to melt, producing volcanism. Examples of this are the Andes mountain range in South America and the Japanese island arc.
Plate boundary zones occur where the effects of the interactions are unclear and the boundaries, usually occurring along a broad belt, are not well defined, and may show various types of movements in different episodes.