San Andreas fault in California
San Andreas fault; img Wikimedia Commons

While folds & faults may have devastating impacts on human life they too have some advantages to them.

Benefits of Faults & Fold Mountains

  • Faults can reveal mineral seams buried underground to the surface.
Gold; img by James St Jon, Flickr
  • Fault openings can produce heat from magma underground used for geothermal power, e.g New Zealand.
  • Scenic views such as fault scarps, hot geysers can be used as tourist attractions.
  • Faults such as the Rift valley in East Africa has created lakes such as Lake Nyasa in Malawi which has contributed greatly to the Malawian fishing industry.
  • The windward side of fold mountains can bring in high rainfalls suitable for farming. However, this is not the case on the leeward side; see below.
  • Springs formed from faulting can prove useful for agriculture, irrigation, and hydro power.
  • Minerals exposed from faulting can produce fertile soils for agriculture and livestock rearing.
  • Fold mountains such as the Rockies in West USA and the Himalayas in Asia are used for recreational activities such as skiing and hiking.

Disadvantages of Faults & Fold Mountains

  • Faulting can cause river offsets damaging the drainage basin and ecosystem where the river left.
Faulting causing river offsets
Faulting causing river offsets.
  • Disrupts already established road networks. Existing fold and faulted landscapes make it difficult to establish road networks and buildings.
  • Fold Mountains can create barriers which cut airflow to the leeward side of mountains causing low rainfall & dryness. On the windward side this can be beneficial as more orographic rainfall is supplied. An example of such mountains is the Sierra Nevada of west USA which blocks moist air from the Pacific. This has created The Great Basin Desert on the leeward side. Another rainshadow desert is the Atacama blocked by the Andes Mountains in West South America.
  • Frequent earth movements. Some fault lines are known to cause minor to major earth vibrations. For example, the 2006 Mozambique earthquake caused by the Rift valley movement. Minor vibrations are known to occur everyday in California due to the San Andreas fault.
  • Fold mountains give way to landslides and avalanches.

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