Giant sinkhole in China reveals an undisturbed ancient forest

A team of Chinese scientists discovered a giant sinkhole with a forest at its bottom.

In May 2022, cave explorers in South China made an amazing discovery, uncovering an ancient forest that remained hidden for centuries. This incredible forest is located at the bottom of a massive sinkhole, which is 192 meters deep and the size of three football fields. The forest is home to trees that grow to an impressive height of 40 meters, making them some of the tallest trees on the planet.

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Xiaozhai Tiankeng, located in Fengjie County of China, is the largest heavenly pit in the world. On May 6, 2022, explorers touched base on a similar pit located in Leye County and found ancient trees and plants inside. — Guangxi press release. © Wikimedia Commons

Cave explorers in search of hidden marvels made a remarkable discovery just outside Ping’e village in Leye County of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. On May 6, 2022, their journey brought them to a deep sinkhole where they were greeted by an undisturbed ancient forest.

According to the Chinese government, there are 30 giant sinkholes in the region. These sinkholes are known as “Tiankeng” in the local language which means the “Heavenly Pit.” The sinkhole in question, measuring 306 meters in length, 150 meters in width, and 192 meters in depth, is the largest one in the county.

In an interview with the state news agency Xinhua, Zhang Yuanhai, a senior engineer at the Institute of Karst Geology of the China Geological Survey said that the sinkhole had three caves in its walls along with a well-preserved primitive forest at the bottom.

“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,” said Chen Lixin, leader of the expedition team that trekked for hours to reach the sinkhole’s base.

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A sinkhole seen from the bottom up. This is not the sinkhole discovered in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. © Istock

Any landscape formed by sinkhole is called a karst landscape, which is formed when bedrock dissolves into groundwater. This implies that such regions have a series of sinkholes and caves. This particular cave is rare, though, for even with its depth, there is enough light to allow the growth of trees.

The discovery of this ancient forest at the bottom of the giant sinkhole in China is a remarkable find that sheds light on the Earth’s geological and environmental history. The well-preserved fossils and the unique ecosystem found in the sinkhole provide valuable information about the ancient flora and fauna that once existed in the region.

This discovery may also help us to understand how the Earth’s environment has evolved over millions of years and how it might change in the future. Overall, this discovery is a testament to the marvels of nature and the importance of preserving and studying our planet’s past.