Dissolution of the limestone or dolomite is most intensive where the water first contacts the rock surface. Aggressive dissolution also occurs where flow is focussed in pre-existing openings in the rock, such as along joints, fractures, and bedding planes, and in the zone of water-table fluctuation where ground water is in contact with the atmosphere.
Rainfall and surface water percolate through joints in the limestone. Dissolved carbonate rock is carried away from the surface and a small depression gradually forms.

On exposed carbonate surfaces, a depression may focus surface drainage, accelerating the dissolution process. Debris carried into the developing sinkhole may plug the outflow, ponding water and creating wetlands.

Gently rolling hills and shallow depressions caused by solution sinkholes are common topographic features throughout much of Florida.



Cover-subsidence sinkholes tend to develop gradually where the covering sedi-ments are permeable and contain sand.

Granular sediments spall into secondary openings in the underlying carbonate rocks.

A column of overlying sediments settles into the vacated spaces (a process termed "piping").
The slow downward erosion eventually forms small surface depressions 1 inch to several feet in depth and diameter.
Dissolution and infilling continue, forming a noticable depression in the land surface.
In areas where cover material is thicker or sediments contain more clay, cover-subsidence sinkholes are relatively uncommon, are smaller, and may go undetected for long periods.


Cover-collapse sinkholes may develop abruptly (over a period of hours) and cause catastrophic damages. They occur where the covering sediments contain a significant amount of clay.

Sediments spall into a cavity.

As spalling continues, the cohesive covering sediments form a structural arch.
The cavity migrates upward by progressive roof collapse.
The cavity eventually breaches the ground surface, creating sudden and dramatic sinkholes.
Over time, surface drainage, erosion, and deposition of sediment transform the steep-walled sinkhole into a shallower bowl-shaped depression.




Many of the numerous lakes and ponds that dot the Florida landscape, such as these in central Polk County, are actually subsidence depressions that are filled with water.

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