karst topography

[ kärst ]
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A landscape that is characterized by numerous caves, sinkholes, fissures, and underground streams. Karst topography usually forms in regions of plentiful rainfall where bedrock consists of carbonate-rich rock, such as limestone, gypsum, or dolomite, that is easily dissolved. Surface streams are usually absent from karst topography.
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Words nearby karst topography

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


What is karst topography?

Karst topography is a kind of landscape with a lot of sinkholes, caves, and underground streams. It is especially common in areas with frequent rain and ground made of easily dissolved rock, such as limestone.

Karst topography occurs when an area whose ground is loaded with soluble rocks gets a large amount of rain. Rainwater typically is at least somewhat acidic, and soluble rocks, such as limestone, will crack or dissolve when repeatedly exposed to acidic rain. Given enough time—maybe millions of years—ground water seeping into the dirt and rock will create vast networks of caves, tunnels, and streams underground. Above ground, the surface can look different depending on what part of the world the karst topography occurs in. However, one common effect is the creation of sinkholes, caused by the surface rock being weakened so much by water that it finally collapses.

Examples of karst topography can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Around 15 percent of the entire Earth’s landmass is some form of karst topography.

Why is karst topography important?

Topography refers to the features of a natural area (or a description or map of those features). Karst comes from a German word for the rocky region that covers parts of Italy and Slovenia. This area is now known simply as “the Karst.”

Karst topography can be found all over the world. Areas with karst topography are known as being great sources of clean drinking water because of how easily water flows through such areas without being contaminated. For these and other reasons, many regions of karst topography are the focus of nature preservation.

Did you know … ?

Slovenia has many mesmerizing examples of karst topography, including popular visitor spots such as Predjama Cave, known for having been inhabited by prehistoric humans and Roman explorers as well as having a five-story castle built into one of its outside cliffs.

What are real-life examples of karst topography?

This diagram shows a typical example of karst topography:


Karst topography is often very beautiful, and many people have fond memories of visiting these amazing landscapes:


What other words are related to karst topography?

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following is important to the creation of karst topography?

A. Lots of rain or snow
B. Soluble rocks, like limestone or dolomite
C. Long lengths of time for erosion to occur and caves to form
D. All of the above

How to use karst topography in a sentence