Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Environmental Science and Policy

Major Professor

Robert Brinkmann, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Philip van Beynen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

H. Leonard Vacher, Ph.D.


sinkhole, gis, karst, aerial photographs, florida


This thesis analyzes some of the effects of urbanization in Pinellas County, Florida on the karst landscape. Many sinkholes have been obscured and/or modified for storm water retention by urbanization in Pinellas County, with a few sinkholes still identifiable by characteristic zoning of vegetation, soil moisture, and circular shape. Using aerial photos from 1926 and 2000, karst features were identified by circularity,vegetation, and moisture conditions. Mapping karst surface features using historic aerial photos and maps is a useful exercise that will assist our scientific understanding of karstification in Florida and the nature and extent of karst processes that have acted in the pre-urbanized past. The final product of this research is a digital spatial database and metadata of karst features discernable on the 1926 and 2000 aerial photos; a description of the karst landscape mapped for each time period; and a morphometric description (including sinkhole area, density, and topography) of the karst landscape mapped for each time period.

A total of 2,703 sinkholes were identified on the 1926 aerial photos. By 2000 only 900 sinkholes were still visible, a loss of 87.31%. Most of the loss of these sinkholes was due to the rapid urbanization that happened between 1926 and 2000. A total of 499 sinkholes that had been identified in 1926 have now been modified into storm water retention ponds.