Locating sinkholes in Pinellas County, Florida, is confounded by the presence of a cover of Quaternary sediments that mute the surface appearance of these sinkholes. As a first step in addressing the sinkhole hazard in the county, we analysed aerial photographs from 1926 and 1995 that covered the entire county. We digitized all identifiable sinkholes in each set of photographs in a GIS (Geographical Information System) using a set of criteria established to differentiate between karst depressions and depressions resulting from other geological processes. The 1926 photographs, although of low quality, helped to establish a baseline prior to urbanization. The 1995 photographs provided a post-urbanization distribution of natural sinkholes and man-made depression features (e.g. retention ponds). From these two data sets, we are able to assess natural and anthropogenic changes in the karst landscape of the study area. In particular, we discovered that 87% of the sinkhole features identified in the 1926 photographs are no longer present in the photographs from 1995. Many of the lost depressions have been incorporated into retention ponds.


Environmental Monitoring | Geophysics and Seismology | Natural Resources and Conservation