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...
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