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Republished from Cave and Karst Science 24 (2), 1997, 81-86. Open link

UIS KHS Commission
Quartzite dissolution: karst or pseudokarst?

A wide range of landforms of great similarity to limestone karst is found on many of the world's quartz sandstones and quartzites. These landforms have often been dismissed as pseudokarst, but recent investigation shows that the dissolutional removal of silica, even quartz, under earth-surface conditions is a critical process in their formation. They must therefore be regarded as true karst features. Recognition of these genetically similar forms on quartzose rocks now demands the worldwide adoption of a less restrictive, process-based, karst definition. Direct evidence for this near-surface dissolutional weathering is not common. Examples of this process are reviewed here, along with further evidence for the dissolution of silica from within the quartz sandstones of the Sydney Basin in temperate south-eastern Australia. Some of the complex processes by which dissolution attacks the rock remain unclear. However the solubility, thermodynamics, fluid throughput and physical removal of detritus are all critical factors in the formation of what can only be termed karst on quartzites and quartz sandstone.