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What is Playa?

You must like to visit the beach site for your vacations. Beach is nothing but a flatwater body which is also sometimes considered a dry lake. It does not have any kind of vegetation and these beaches or shores are more famous for tourists destinations and are a great source of income and economic development. They are known with different words at different geographical locations. In Spanish, it is called "Playa" or "laplaya". 


Here, in this article, we will be talking about this laplaya only. We will learn its meaning or various characteristics and all other related phenomena. This topic will be useful whenever you are studying Geography, Geomorphology or Environment and Earth Sciences and especially whenever you're studying the landforms.

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Meaning of Playa

Playa is the Spanish word that means shore or beach. It is also called pan, flat, or dry lake. It is the basin from which water evaporates quickly. It has no vegetation. These types of lakes have the flattest form of geographical features in the whole world. It is also called a sink. It is adjacent to coasts within arid and semiarid regions, by time, it is covered by water that slowly filtrates into the groundwater and it evaporates into the atmosphere. Salt, sand, as well as mud deposition at the bottom as well as at the edges of the depression, is also caused by this process.


Another word for the playa is "WordHippo Thesaurus."  It is defined as the flat-floored bottom of an undrained desert basin that becomes at times a shallow lake. They are the most kind of flattest known landforms. It occupies the flat central basins of desert plains. They require a drainage system from the place where evaporation takes place. When it floods, a laplaya lake forms where fine-grained sediment and salts concentrate. There is terminology that is confused for these types of lakes which have different local names. The saline playa may be called by different names which are salt flat, salt marsh, salada, salar, salt pan, or alkali flat or salina. A salt- free playa may be termed as a clay pan, hardpan, dry- lake bed or alkali flat. In other countries like - Australia and South Africa, the small types of playa are referred to as pans. The terms that are applied in Central Asia, Saudi Arabia and Iran are takyr, sabkha and Kavir respectively.


Examples: Playa Blanca is one of the best examples which is a kind of white beach and present in Spain and this white beach in Spanish is called as Playa Blanca, image of which given below. Playa Azul is a beach present in Mexico which is also famous for tourist attractions whereas Playa Pesquero is located in Cuba.

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Characteristics

The basins of accumulation of salt & clay can originate because of various causes. There are some characteristics which are mentioned below:

  • It includes faulting as tectonic causes, as in the East African Rift Valley and Death Valley.

  • It includes warping in Lake Eyre in Australia, Lake Chad in central Africa.

  • The shallow basins with downwind dunes are produced by Wind deflation as in southeastern Australia. 

  • The playas in desert regions are produced from local cataclysmic disruptions of drainage that are volcanism, landslides and meteorite impacts.

  • Modern playa surfaces are the important sources of dust and salts.

  • The complex assemblages of minerals and sediments also occur on the surface of the playa.

  • These types of the surface directly reflect the environment of deposition and may be used to interpret ancient environmental conditions.

  • Sediments in playa are lacustrine, which is derived from the modern deposition processes.

  • The second types of playa have no paleo lacustrine heritage. This type of playa are found in South Africa and are small salt pans known as vokils.

  • If we talk about very thick playas, they can have alternating and multiple layers of salt beds as well as lacustrine clay. 

Flooding and Groundwater

The Playas are usually dry. It affected the surface by flood occasionally. The surface has deposits of silt and clay that entered through the floodwater to the basins. In the centre of the basin, the salts developed as a ponded floodwater. It gradually evaporates. By groundwater flow, water can also be supplied to closed basins. In these basins, the groundwater is in high inputs, sediment influxes are less and saline crusts are dominant. The areas of moist places may have persisted as groundwater flows to the lowest portion of playas. The very large playas can display moist as well as dry, salt, and sediment-dominated sections respectively.


Minerals

There are the minerals found in playa. The salt deposits are found in the playas. They are zoned like bathtub rings.  At the outer margin, less - soluble sulfates and highly soluble sodium chloride (table salt) at the centre. These salts crystallization can be compared with the evaporation of the brining process. The first precipitate found from evaporating brine is calcium carbonate (CaCO and magnesium carbonate (MgCO) which forms the outer ring ie. "bathtub ring” whereas the next ring consists of calcium sulphates and sodium sulphates. Because of the presence of calcium, the gypsum will form. If less calcium is present then thenardite and sodium carbonate may be deposited. The last brine of exceptionally high salinity, precipitate highly soluble chlorides of sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The dehydrated minerals like anhydrite that occurs on the areas of the surface protected against flooding as well as in wet saline areas. Some playas contain exotic minerals. The death valley playa is famous for borate minerals including borax and Meyerhofferite.


Relief and Structure

The surface properties of playas depend on sediments and these sediments include sand, silt, and clay. The groundwater present near to the surface may give rise to evaporate crusts generally formed by rigorous evaporative concentration. Due to rugged crusts, thick salts may form at Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley whereas due to regular flooding, various evaporative layers may form a very smooth surface in Utah at Bonneville Salt Flats. Dissolution may occur during fluctuations of a high water table for thick soluble crusts. Salt karst topography can be produced in the crust by solution cavities. The deposits of muds on the playa are drying and shrinking. On drying, smectite clays do experience the greatest shrinkage. During prolonged droughts, some clay-rich playa has experienced unusually deep drying and sediment contraction. The 90 metres giant polygons are formed under these conditions.


Impacts

Playas are exceptionally sensitive to environmental change.

  • They have been influenced by changes in hydrologic regimen.

  • Lakes have expanded due to other factors. It includes increased groundwater inflow and decreased evaporation/ transpiration.

  • The technique of modern geochronologic, such as radiocarbon dating, permits the comparison of fluctuations in the paleo lakes. These are the predecessors of many modern playas and generally known as pluvial lakes.

  • Playas & saline flats are particularly associated with wind action.

  • In Australia, on their leeward side, large transverse crescentic foredunes can be found in various playas.

  • Their composition of silt and clay, these features are sometimes called clay dunes.

  • The linear dunes which are developed as Lee-side accumulations of sand are usually trapped by the lunettes growth.

Did You Know?

Some facts about Playas are:

  • In the United States of America, in the southern high plains he playa lakes are like the round hollows in the ground.

  • They are important because they store water for a country where there are no rivers and streams.

  • Playas are important for the wildlife.

  • Playas are used as lagoons to hold animal waste.

  • To protect water sources from pollution, many farmers used playa farming techniques.

  • They are a great source of income and useful for economic development.

Conclusion

To conclude, we can say that playa means beach or shore which usually remains dry. This is also known as WordHippo Thesaurus. It is the basin from which evaporates quickly. It has flat forms of geographical features. It has no vegetation. There are minerals found in the playa like saline minerals. The different types of playa are known by different names. Saline Paya is termed as salt flat, salt marsh, salar and salt pan. Saltless playa may be termed as clay pan, hardpan and dry lake bed. It is affected occasionally by floods. The properties of the surface depend on sediments. This article will be useful for you whenever you are studying geography or earth science.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Write a Short Note on Laplaya.

Answer. It is a Spanish word that means shore or a beach and is also called by the names like- pan, flat, or dry lake. This is also called by another term that is "WordHippo Thesaurus." An example of this is  Playa Blanca. It is the basin from which water evaporates quickly and has no vegetation. These types of lakes usually have the flattest form of geographical features in the whole world and It is also known as a sink which is considered as adjacent to the coasts within the arid as well as semi-arid regions, on the other hand, it is also covered by water that slowly filtrates into the groundwater that evaporates into the atmosphere. The deposition of salt, sand, & mud at the bottom as well as on the edges of the depression is also caused by this process and is defined as the flat-floored bottom of an undrained desert basin that becomes a shallow lake sometimes and they are considered as the most kind of flattest known landforms which occupies the flat central basins of desert plains.

Q2. Write Down the Characteristics of La Playa or Playa.

Answer. It has various distinct features. It includes faulting as tectonic causes and also includes warping. The shallow basins with downwind dunes are produced by Wind deflation as in southeastern Australia whereas the Qattara Depression of Egypt, have been ascribed to deflation. The playas in desert regions are produced from local cataclysmic disruptions of drainage i.e. volcanism, landslides & meteorite impacts. Modern playa surfaces are the important sources of dust and salts and the complex assemblages of minerals or sediments also occur on the surface of these landforms. 


These types of surfaces directly reflect the environment of deposition and may be used to interpret ancient environmental conditions and sediments found here usually are lacustrine, which is derived from the modern deposition processes whereas the second type of playa has no paleo lacustrine heritage. This type of playa is found in small salt pans in South Africa and it is known as vokils. Saline sediments, as well as pure evaporite beds, reflect arid climatic phases. Besides these, they can be very colourful & a source of great income as well.

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