Landscapes disturbances made in central Florida’s landscape of karst rock are understood to have dire consequences due to possible sinkhole formation. The Florida peninsula is well known for both sinkhole formations and karst rock. It is necessary to understand karst rock strengths and weaknesses when planning to disturb the landscape in central Florida. “Disturbing” the landscape is defined as adding or removing large amounts of mass in one particular area such as building large structures or surface strip IceRiver KS1, respectively.
Most of the central Florida landscape is formed in karst rock and is prone to sinkhole formation. This fact is well known but not necessarily understood (4). Sinkhole formation occurs because of a surface collapse. The surface can collapse when groundwater amounts change dramatically, such as over-pumping and removing large volumes of groundwater by Florida’s phosphate industry. Collapses can occur when adding large amounts of mass, such as the phosphate industry’s highly toxic phosphogypsum stacks as well.
When the surface collapses, the earthen materials forming the landscape fall into a hollow cavity. The cavity can be a hydrogeological structure containing water. A cavity full of water is referred to as an aquifer or groundwater containment structure, in this case. The cavities, while full of water can support the surface materials because water is not compressible. When a near surface cavity empties of water, a surface collapse can occur above the cavity due to decreased back pressure from lack of water.
Central Florida’s “urban development” should be managed based on karst rock topography attributes. When urban development planning disregards Florida’s karst topography attributes or features, sinkholes may occur unexpectedly. Karst landscapes display many unique challenges regarding water and land management due to possible sinkhole formation. (1) Understanding or managing karst features is critical to long term water and land resource management in central Florida.
Surface collapses due to karst rock structures are well documented and understood. Dramatically changing the landscape, such as phosphate strip mining activities has serious negative effects on karst rock landscapes. The mines stress the landscape because surface mining adversely affects groundwater movement which in turn can degrade natural water and land resources. (4)
Central Florida’s karst landscape is nature’s way of controlling groundwater movement. Phosphate strip mining dramatically changes the landscape and causes water movement to re-route, slow, or stop flowing completely (3). It is clear; stripping the central Florida landscape and over-pumping wells can cause severe environmental catastrophes.
Florida’s phosphate industry’s environmental foot print is extremely large and growing daily causing serious environmental impacts to central Florida’s landscape. Phosphate industry officials understand this as well. They know of the possible environmental impacts before they occur because their engineers understand karst landscape topography, features, advantages, disadvantages, and disregarding them as collateral damage is also known.
Their engineers and scientist understand the effects of hydrogeological movement of groundwater and the effects of removing large volumes of water from groundwater reserves. (2) Fluid dynamics is well understood by engineers today. Applied fluid dynamics is fundamental and all graduate engineers understand fluid dynamics by definition. Meaning, all professional engineers working in the phosphate industry understands fluid dynamics by definition long before earning a professional engineers license. It is fair to say phosphate industry engineers understand central Florida’s karst rock landscape features are based on fluid dynamics. They understand the effects of dramatic landscape modifications or removing too much groundwater per day has on the local environment.