Karst Landforms

guilin

Karst Landforms Have 2 Main Characteristics:

  1. Limestone or other soluble rock layers
  2. Shaped or dissolved by microscopic lifeforms, running water, waves or weathering

Example of a Karst Landform:

Ozark Plateau, Ozark Mountains, Missouri and Arkansas, USA
The karst picture above is in Yangshuo Guilin, China

What is a Karst Landform?

A karst is an area of land formations created by eroding and dissolving portions of limestone or other soluble rock layers above or below the ground.




How are Karsts Formed?

Dissolving soluble rock can take place above and below the ground to create formations and changes in the landscape. Above ground formations may be weathered and shaped by wind, rain, waves and running water, as well as freeze-thaw erosion.

Where water collects on the surface, potholes in exposed rock layers can be formed by bacteria, fungi and algae that remove silica from rock minerals. Soluble rock layers below the ground can be exposed to running water and collapse to form sinkholes and other changes in the landscape.

Many karst effects like these occur due to a very high water table and underground moving water. Running water flowing over limestone rock in mountain regions can also create limestone deposits that coat rocks and stream beds as another karst feature. A karst is where several or more of these changes occur in the same location to alter the appearance of the land.

How Large is a Karst?

A karst may be an area only a dozen feet wide, with changes in soft rock layers occurring above or below the ground. Often, a karst covers a larger area that may continue for hundreds of feet or in some cases many square miles. The largest limestone karst is an area of over 77,000 square miles.

Where Can a Karst Be Found?

A karst is often found in an area of very high groundwater and underground soluble rock layers close to the surface. A karst can also be found where limestone or other soluble rock layers are present above the ground and exposed to waves, running water or other weathering processes. In some areas, a karst may be found where conditions that created the karst no longer exist.

Famous Karst Locations

• Ozark Plateau, Ozark Mountains, Missouri and Arkansas, USA
• Turner Falls, Arbuckle Mountain Range, Oklahoma, USA
• Nullarbor Plain of Australia
• Chocolate Hills, Island of Bohol, Philippines

The region of the Ozark Plateau in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas has many karst areas of limestone cliffs and other rock formations. The Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma contain much uplifting of limestone layers. Streams and waterfalls dissolve and carry the limestone downstream, coating some areas under and near the waterline with limestone deposits.

The area of Turner Falls has the most of these. The world’s largest single formation of limestone exposed at the surface, and perhaps the world’s largest karst formation, is the Nullarbor Plain of Australia covering approximately 77,000 square miles.

Many caves, blowholes and sinkholes can be found along the coast line and up to several hundred yards inland. Limestone cliffs overlook the southern Australian coast from the karst plain. Further inland there are potholes in the limestone and other less prominent features.

The Chocolate Hllls are peculiar smooth conical-shaped karst formations on the Island of Bohol in the Philippines. They are a form of limestone with grass growing on their surface. When the grass turns brown in the dry season, their appearance is like bonbons or chocolate kisses. How they were formed is a mystery that is difficult to explain. Heavy rainfall may have helped to erode their surface during formation.

Karst Definition:

Changes in the landscape created by eroding and dissolving limestone or other soluble rock layers.

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