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An ancient forest has just been discovered in China, hidden in a giant sinkhole

A team of geologists has just made a very surprising discovery in the forests of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. The researchers, who come from the Institute of Karst Geology of China Geological Survey, discovered a giant sinkhole that contained “well-preserved primeval forest” at the bottom.

Geologists discovered the sinkhole in Leye County, and it is 306m long, 150m wide, and has a depth of 192m. According to the information, satellite images had already suggested the existence of a sinkhole in this region of China which is covered with forests. To confirm its existence, the researchers explored the region on foot, and they did not come back empty-handed.

A hole
An example of a chasm. Not the newly discovered one – Credits Song Wen/ Xinhua/ Alamy Live News

This part of China is well known for its sinkholes. Leye County alone is known to have at least 29 similar sinkholes.

Species still unknown?

To reach the base of the sinkhole, the geologists had to abseil down a height of 100 m and walk for hours. When they arrived at the scene, they discovered very dense, shoulder-high plant growth. There were also “old trees” that grew up to a height of 40 m.

According to Chen Lixin, who led the expedition, he would not be surprised to know that there are species in these caves that have never been recorded or described by science.

The origin of the chasms

In China, the giant sinkholes are known as “tiankeng”, which means “heavenly pits”. These huge holes form when slightly acidic rainwater seeps into the ground and slowly erodes the soluble bedrock. Over time, underground tunnels and caverns can form underground. A sinkhole is created when the upper ceiling of a cave becomes so thin that it collapses to expose the cavity below.

We can thus say that the sinkhole of the county of Leye was formed a very long time ago to have had time to see an old growth forest.


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