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Landforms formed by Groundwater: Geomorphology Study Notes for Kerala PSC/ UPSC/ SSC

Surface water as well as groundwater develop various landforms in calcium carbonate-rich rocks like limestones and dolomites through the chemical process of solution and precipitation deposition. In limestones or dolomites, these two processes—solution and precipitation—are active. Karst topography refers to a limestone or dolomitic region that exhibits typical landforms created by the action of groundwater through the processes of solution and deposition.

Erosional landforms of groundwater

Swallow holes

Through the process of solution, small to medium-sized round to sub-rounded shallow depressions known as swallow holes develop on the surface of limestones.


An opening that is more or less circular at the top and funnel-shaped at the bottom is referred to as a sinkhole.


Collapse sinks are large holes that open into underground caves or voids if the bottom of a sinkhole serves as the roof of the void or cave. Sinkholes frequently have a soil mantle covering them, giving the appearance of shallow water pools. Dolines, collapsible sinks, are occasionally referred to by this term.


Long, narrow to wide trenches known as valley sinks or Uvalas form when sink holes and dolines join together due to slumping of materials along their margins or due to roof collapse of caves.


These pits and trenches slowly eat away most of the limestone’s surface, leaving behind an incredibly irregular surface covered in a labyrinth of points, grooves, and ridges.

Limestone pavements

Particularly in limestone pavements, these lapies or ridges develop as a result of different solution activity along parallel and sub-parallel joints. Eventually, the lapies field might be transformed into polished limestone pavements.


The formation of caves is common where there are alternating beds of rocks with limestones or dolomites in between, or where limestones are massive, dense, and occur as thick beds. Water moves horizontally along bedding planes through the materials or joints and cracks. As the limestone dissolved, long, slender to wide gaps known as caves were created.


Caverns typically have an entrance where cave streams exit. Tunnels are caves that have openings at both ends.

Depositional landforms of groundwater


Stalactites hang as various-sized icicles. They typically have broad bases and taper toward their free ends, appearing in a variety of shapes. Stalagmites: They protrude from the cave floors. In reality, water that has leaked from the surface or through the nearby stalactite’s thin pipe causes stalagmites to grow.


can resemble a column or a disc with a smooth, rounded bulging end or a tiny depression resembling a crater.


Columns and pillars of various diameters are eventually formed when the stalagmite and stalactite combine.

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