Encyclopedia of Engineering Geology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Peter T. Bobrowsky, Brian Marker


  • Martin CulshawEmail author
  • Anthony H. Cooper
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-73568-9_93


The process by which soluble rocks such as limestone (predominantly calcium carbonate), chalk (also calcium carbonate), dolomite (magnesium calcium carbonate), gypsum (hydrated calcium sulfate), and halite/“rock-salt” (sodium chloride) are dissolved by the passage of water or weakly acidic water either over the rock surfaces or through fractures and pores in the rock.


Dissolution of soluble rocks proceeds at varying rates depending on the mineralogy of the rock and composition of the water. The rate is slower in less soluble rocks (limestone, chalk, and dolomite) but quicker in more soluble gypsum. Over time, the fractures become enlarged and increasingly interlinked, eventually forming complex subsurface drainage systems and in the stronger rocks, cavernous ground. The dissolution features form a landscape known as karst, which is typified by caves, sinkholes/dolines (surface subsidence features caused by collapse into caves/voids), sinking streams (surface...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Klimchouk A (1996) The dissolution and conversion of gypsum and anhydrite. Int J Speleol 25(3–4):21–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Klimchouk A, Lowe D, Cooper A, Sauro U (eds) (1996) Gypsum karst of the world. Int J Speleol 25(3–4):307Google Scholar
  3. Waltham T, Bell FG, Culshaw MG (2005) Sinkholes and subsidence: karst and cavernous rocks in engineering and construction. Praxis Publishing Ltd., ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  4. Warren JK (2016) Evaporites: a geological compendium, 2nd edn. Springer, Cham, p 1813Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.British Geological SurveyNottinghamUK
  2. 2.University of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  3. 3.British Geological Survey, KeyworthNottinghamUK