Constructive plate margins happen where plates move apart. Most of these plate margins are under the oceans. As the plates move apart, magma rises from the mantle to the Earth’s surface. The rising magma forms shield volcanoes.

You are watching: This is also known as a constructive boundary


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Constructive plate margin


Constructive (tensional) plate margins occur where plates move apart. Examples below include the South American Plate and African Plate and the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate.


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" data-image-caption="A map to show the Earth’s plates

" data-medium-file="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Earths-Plates-300x203.png" data-large-file="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Earths-Plates-1024x694.png" loading="lazy" class="size-large wp-image-123" src="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Earths-Plates-1024x694.png" alt="A map to show the Earth"s plates" width="1024" height="694" srcset="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Earths-Plates-1024x694.png 1024w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Earths-Plates-450x305.png 450w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Earths-Plates-300x203.png 300w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Earths-Plates-768x520.png 768w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Earths-Plates-1080x732.png 1080w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Earths-Plates.png 1476w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" />

A map to show the Earth’s plates


Constructive boundariesare mainly located under the sea, e.g. the Mid Atlantic Ridge. Here, chains of underwater volcanoes have formed along the plate boundary. One of these volcanoes may become so large that it erupts out of the sea to create a volcanic island, e.g. Surtsey and the Westman Islands near Iceland.

Iceland is about 18 – 25 million years old and is thus one of the youngest countries in the world. The formation of Iceland started about 60 million years ago when the mid-Atlantic ridge (the boundary between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate) started to give way and when mantle plumes appeared.


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" data-medium-file="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-298x300.png" data-large-file="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin.png" loading="lazy" class="size-full wp-image-23058" src="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin.png" alt="Map showing the tectonic plates that separate Iceland" width="745" height="749" srcset="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin.png 745w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-100x100.png 100w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-450x452.png 450w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-298x300.png 298w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-80x80.png 80w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-320x322.png 320w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-640x643.png 640w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-360x362.png 360w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-720x724.png 720w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-36x36.png 36w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-180x180.png 180w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Iceland-constructive-plate-margin-701x705.png 701w" sizes="(max-width: 745px) 100vw, 745px" />Iceland has been formed as the result of a constructive plate margin.

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The image below shows Brú milli heimsálfa or the ‘Bridge between continents’ which links the North American and Eurasian plate that form the constructive margin that runs through Iceland. To the left is the North American plate and to the right the Eurasian plate.


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" data-medium-file="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BRÚ-MILLI-HEIMSÁLFA-300x200.jpg" data-large-file="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BRÚ-MILLI-HEIMSÁLFA-1030x687.jpg" loading="lazy" class="wp-image-5568 size-large" src="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BR%C3%9A-MILLI-HEIMS%C3%81LFA-1030x687.jpg" alt="Brú milli heimsálfa" width="1030" height="687" srcset="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BRÚ-MILLI-HEIMSÁLFA-1030x687.jpg 1030w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BRÚ-MILLI-HEIMSÁLFA-scaled-450x300.jpg 450w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BRÚ-MILLI-HEIMSÁLFA-300x200.jpg 300w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BRÚ-MILLI-HEIMSÁLFA-768x512.jpg 768w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BRÚ-MILLI-HEIMSÁLFA-1500x1000.jpg 1500w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BRÚ-MILLI-HEIMSÁLFA-705x470.jpg 705w, https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BRÚ-MILLI-HEIMSÁLFA-scaled.jpg 1600w" sizes="(max-width: 1030px) 100vw, 1030px" />Brú milli heimsálfa or the ‘Bridge between continents’


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" data-medium-file="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Geography-Infographics-Set-1-300x169.png" data-large-file="https://www.les-grizzlys-catalans.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Geography-Infographics-Set-1-1030x579.png" />
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