Karst sinkhole with an ancient forest inside discovered in China
A team of researchers has discovered a giant sinkhole with an ancient forest at its bottom in the Leye district of China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. According to the Xinhua news agency, the sinkhole is 192 meters deep, 306 meters long, and 149 meters wide.
Speleologists found three caves inside, which may be a clue to the early evolution of sinkholes. Expedition team leader Chen Lixin said, "I would not be surprised to learn that species have been found in the caves that science has not yet reported or described."
In China, such cavities are called tiankeng, which translates as "heavenly pits". Most of them are habitats for unique plants. Ancient primitive trees up to 40 meters in height grow at the bottom of the crater located in the Leye district.
Similar sinkholes can form in any area with karst terrain. But the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China is known for huge sinkholes of great depth. Many of them have become pathways to aquifers and groundwater reservoirs. According to international cave expert George Veni, sinkholes are often the main or only water source for the 700 million people in the world.
So far, 30 sinkholes have been recorded in Leye County. In 2019, the same researchers found a group of 19 sinkholes in the region, connected by a system of underground caves and a river.