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Scientists have recently discovered an entire forest inside a 630 foot deep giant sinkhole in China.
The sinkhole contains a load of ancient trees and plants that could well include some species that have never been discovered before.
Located in Leye County, in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China, the sinkhole was discovered by cave explorers on 6 May, who found three cave entrances inside the 1,004 feet long and 492 feet wide void.
What's that? Oh, just a forest inside a sinkhole in China. pic.twitter.com/PvWpC38QGP— Nine Dragons (@NineDragons2) May 12, 2022
Speaking to Live Science, expedition leader Chen Lixin said: “I wouldn’t be surprised to know that there are species found in these caves that have never been reported or described by science until now". He added that some the trees found in the forest were nearly 130 foot tall.
George Veni, the executive director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute, told Live Science that differences in geology, climate and other factors meant that karst – a terrain that's dissolving bedrock can result in such sinkholes – can be dramatically different depending on where it is.
"In China you have this incredibly visually spectacular karst with enormous sinkholes and giant cave entrances and so forth.
"In other parts of the world you walk out on the karst and you really don’t notice anything. Sinkholes might be quite subdued, only a meter or two in diameter.
"Cave entrances might be very small, so you have to squeeze your way into them.”
A cave exploration team discovered a giant sinkhole in southern China, bringing the number of such sinkholes in the county to 30. pic.twitter.com/a4IVFogIG9— South China Morning Post (@SCMPNews) May 11, 2022
He was also unsurprised at the discovery, although there's no doubt it looks jaw-dropping. According to the expert, because southern China is home to such vast karst topography, its landscape is prone to dramatic sinkholes and otherworldly caves. He explained that it's slightly acidic rainwater that begins the process of dissolving the bedrock in a karst landscape.
It picks up carbon dioxide as it runs through the soil, which makes it more acidic.
It then trickles, rushes and flows through cracks in the bedrock, which in turns eventually hollows them out into tunnels and voids.
As above, so below? China finds ancient forest underneath mountain! https://t.co/S4KP2pbaRt— Cynthia McKinney PhD (@cynthiamckinney) May 13, 2022
Once these holes or chambers become large enough, the ceiling will collapse and form a sinkhole.
Incredibly, this is the 30th sinkhole to have been discovered in the region – and China can also boast being the home to the largest sinkhole in the world.
Located in Xiaozhai Tiankeng, the sinkhole there is 2,100 feet deep, 2,000 feet long and 1,760 feet wide and includes a waterfall within its depths, leaving it looking like something out of Minecraft.
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