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Limestone and Chalk Features

In GCSE Geography students will look at the some of the different types of rock, and how to classify them. This quiz looks at some of the uses of limestone and chalk and also some limestone and chalk features found in the landscape, such as caves or cliffs.

The features of every landscape are shaped by its underlying geology. The Yorkshire Dales, the Chalk Downs and the White Cliffs of Dover - each of these is a famous British landscape that is entirely shaped by an underlying geology of chalk or limestone.

Limestone is composed of the skeletal remains of marine creatures that died millions of years ago. The bodies of dead corals, molluscs and other animals have built up on the sea floor over time into layers that can be hundreds of metres deep. Sometimes entire reefs can be preserved as a window into the past.

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Limestone has a variety of uses - it’s the raw material in cement, mortar, concrete, quicklime and slaked lime. It's also an ingredient in glass making and is added to bread, toothpaste, plastics, paint, tiles, medicines and cosmetics. On top of that it is used as a means of neutralising acids in water and soils and as a control for pollution. Even the humble tortoise, as well as some other animals, may be fed limestone as a calcium supplement!

For all its versatility, probably the most visible use of limestone is as a building material. Some of its features - its pure white colour and the flashes of light as the crystals present in some limestone catch the Sun - have made it a prized building material. Cathedrals, civic buildings and even the Great Pyramid of Giza are all built from limestone. However, limestone is easily attacked by acid rain, meaning that as pollution levels rise these buildings have been subjected to greater levels of erosion.

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  1. Why do underground rivers commonly form in limestone regions?
    Limestone is relatively easily dissolved, especially by water with a low pH. This is why acid rain is so damaging to limestone statues and buildings
  2. Since limestone is mostly composed of the remains of marine organisms, what does that tell us about the landscape these rocks were originally formed in?
    Limestone reefs often contain the remains of full heads of coral and other marine creatures. Over millions of years the land has been uplifted out of the sea
  3. Why are limestone products sometimes added to soil?
    Powdered limestone is often used to neutralise acids in the soil or water. This can be because the soil is naturally acidic, or acidic due to pollution
  4. Limestone is frequently quarried for a variety of uses, often in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Which of the following is a disadvantage of quarrying?
    Quarries will often lead to an increase in noise and air pollution in rural areas - often in national parks and areas of outstanding natrual beauty. The other three options were all advantages rather than disadvantages
  5. Fossils are frequently found in limestone. What sort of rock is limestone?
    Fossils are the remains of formerly living creatures, but the heat and pressure of metamorphic and igneous processes destroy them. Remember that fossils are found in sedimentary rocks as this is a frequent exam question
  6. What is the chemical composition of limestone?
    Limestone is calcium carbonate. This key part of concrete, glass making and other products is the same stuff that you study in science
  7. Which of the following is an example of limestone?
    This sort of question may crop up in the exam. Whilst you're not expected to know that Kentish ragstone is a type of limestone you are expected to know that sandstone, granite and marble are not limestone, even though marble and limestone share the same chemical formula
  8. Stalactites are composed of layers of calcium carbonate. Why are stalactites more common in limestone regions?
    Stalactites are layers of dissolved limestone, or other types of calcium carbonate. As the water runs down the formation it leaves behind some of that dissolved limestone
  9. Marble has the same chemical composition as limestone but is a different type of rock. Which type of rock is marble?
    Marble is created after limestone has been subjected to heat and pressure
  10. The White Cliffs of Dover are a chalk landscape. Why are these cliffs straight and relatively slow to erode rather than sloped and rapidly eroding?
    Chalk is a hard rock, meaning that it resists erosion. The powerful action of the waves at the bottom of the cliff will be the main source of erosion, causing the cliffs to have a steep straight profile. Remember that soft cliffs will have a lower profile

Author: Ruth M

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