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Sinkholes in the salt-bearing evaporite karst of the Ebro River valley upstream of Zaragoza city (NE Spain):Geomorphological mapping and analysis as a basis for risk management

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2008.12.018
  • Evaporite Karst
  • Sinkhole Hazard
  • Geomorphological Mapping
  • Human Impact
  • Earth Science


Abstract A detailed sinkhole map has been produced in a stretch of the Ebro Valley (40.8 km 2) including the western sector of Zaragoza city (NE Spain). During the last few decades, around 70% of the original sinkhole area has been filled with anthropogenic sediments causing the disappearance of 137 ha of wetlands. The interstratal karstification of salts (halite and glauberite) and a WNW–ESE-trending joint set have played a major control in the development of sinkholes. Three morphometric types of sinkholes have been differentiated, each attributed to a specific subsidence mechanism inferred from the paleosinkholes exposed in the surrounding of Zaragoza city; sagging of bedrock and cover, collapse of bedrock and cover, and collapse of cover material related to the downward migration of particles through dissolutional conduits. Each type of sinkhole is characterised by a distinctive behaviour in terms of controlling factors, spatio-temporal distribution and kinematics, and consequently the proposed differentiation may have a practical utility. The vast majority of the subsidence damage identified in the area occurs within the boundaries of pre-existing sinkholes identifiable in old aerial photographs and topographical maps. This fact demonstrates that the application of preventive planning strategies based on detailed geomorphological maps would have allowed avoidance of most of the large financial losses caused by subsidence in the area, of the order of hundreds of thousands of euros per year.

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