Sinkhole in China Found with Ancient Forest
An ancient forest with trees up to 40 meters (130 feet) tall has been discovered at the bottom of a massive sinkhole in China. It may hold undiscovered plants and animal species, according to scientists. When cave explorers in the Guangxi region of southern China discovered the sinkhole with a primitive forest inside, they alerted experts. This is the largest sinkhole in Leye County, measuring 306 meters long, 150 meters broad, and 192 meters deep. Chinese experts believe the forest may be home to rare species that have never been documented by science before. In Southern China, the Guangxi location is known for sinkholes, and it is the largest of the 30. Three caves were said to be hidden within the site's walls, with a well-preserved ancient woodland at the bottom. "It wouldn't surprise me if there are species found in these caves that have never been recorded or characterized by science before," said Chen Lixin, the expedition's leader. The sinkholes in the area are karst landscapes that occur when groundwater dissolves bedrock, forcing the cave chamber's ceiling to fall. The sinkhole is known to local residents as Shenyang Tiankeng, or “the bottomless pit.” [caption id="attachment_36981" align="alignnone" width="860"] The sinkhole was discovered by cave explorers in Leye County. It measures 306 meters in length, 150 meters in width, and 192 meters in depth.[/caption] The sinkhole is dangerous, odd, steep, and gorgeous, according to an article in the Guangxi Daily newspaper. The scientific mission is important for readjusting the geopark's protection scope, building scientific research and exploration bases, and expanding local tourism, according to Zhang Yuanhai, chairman of the Asian Caves Alliance. According to Zhang Yuanhai, a senior engineer with the China Geological Survey's Institute of Karst Geology, the site has three caves in its walls and a well-preserved primitive forest at the bottom. The team employed the single rope cave rappel technique to drop vertically for 100 meters, discovering dense vegetation and trees along the way. The team arrived to the bottom of the pit, which was covered in tropical rainforest, with trees reaching for the sky, growing tall and thin and giving the pit a "slim" appearance. "The expedition team discovered a large piece of wild plantain as well as an unique square bamboo at the bottom of the pit, but there was no cave linking the underground river at the bottom of the pit, and it is believed that the underground river has been redirected," said the expedition team. Scientists walked for hours to get to the bottom of the sinkhole to examine what was inside. The expedition's leader, Chen Lixin, reported that in addition to the trees, there was extensive vegetation on the ground that reached up to his shoulders. "It wouldn't surprise me if species were discovered in these caverns that had never been reported or characterized by science before," he said. A karst landscape is one that is filled with sinkholes and is generated mostly by groundwater dissolving bedrock. [caption id="attachment_36982" align="alignnone" width="839"] An aerial photo shows a different karst sinkhole in Leye County in 2020.[/caption] According to the United States Geological Survey, karst is a type of topography that is suited for geological wonders like the sinkhole in Leye County, which is formed by groundwater dissolving the limestone rock beneath the surface. Geographical Survey Karst landscapes cover over 20% of the United States, with attractions like Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. This results in stunning sinkholes and caves all over the place. This one is unique in that it is deep but shaped in such a way that enough light filters in, allowing huge trees to thrive. According to NASA, karst topography covers around 13% of China, with the Guangxi region serving as a prime illustration of its beauty. According to George Veni, executive director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute, karst landscapes vary in size and shape depending on the surrounding climate. Veni explained, "In China, you have this extremely aesthetically amazing karst with big sinkholes and giant cave mouths and so on." "In other regions of the world, you walk out on the karst and don't notice anything; sinkholes may be little, only a meter or two in diameter, and cave entrances may be tiny, requiring you to squeeze your way into them." Veni's institute is the sibling organization of the China Geological Survey's Institute of Karst Geology, which identified the new sinkhole. Chen Lixin, who headed the cave expedition team, said the prehistoric trees at the bottom of the pit are nearly 130 feet tall, while the dense vegetation on the forest floor stands shoulder-high.