Scientists Unearth a 630-Foot Deep Sinkhole in China’s Depths

Beneath the surface of a sinkhole in China’s Leye-Fengshan Global Geopark, scientists have uncovered a vast ancient forest located 630 feet below ground level. Hold on tight before delving into the mysteries that lie within!

This region, situated in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China, is renowned for hosting the world’s longest natural bridge and caves, as recognized by UNESCO. The geopark primarily consists of sedimentary formations, with over 60% comprising 3000 meters of Devonian to Permian carbonate rocks, forming an ‘S’-shaped structure and a rhombus configuration in the karst areas of Leye and Fengshan counties.

Controlled by the Bailang and Poyue rivers, the geopark features the formation of the Buliuhe River and numerous karst geosites, including high karst peak clusters (fengcong), poljes, karst springs, karst windows (tiankengs), natural bridges, extensive caves, massive cave chambers, and speleothems. It also showcases fault zones, minor folds, giant panda fossils, a Neogene stratigraphic section, and other fossils.

Karst terrain, characterized by a loose soil structure prone to erosion, gives rise to sinkholes. In May 2022, scientists discovered a new sinkhole in the park, measuring approximately 630 feet deep, 490 feet wide, and over 1,000 feet long. Within this sinkhole, a surprising find awaits—an expanse filled with mature trees and plants, potentially harboring new species.

The colossal space, measuring 1,004 feet in length and 492 feet in width, harbors three cave openings explored by scientists. Expedition leader Chen Lixin expressed the possibility of discovering undocumented species within these caves, noting trees reaching heights of over 130 feet in the surrounding bush.

Consulting George Veni, director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute, revealed the dynamic nature of karst landscapes, shaped by factors such as location, temperature, and other environmental elements. The thirty-first known opening in the region, this sinkhole adds to the marvels of southern China’s extensive karst landscape.

Veni explained that the slightly acidic rainwater in a karst environment erodes rock by absorbing carbon dioxide, increasing soil acidity. As water seeps through bedrock fissures, it creates holes and tunnels, eventually leading to the formation of sinkholes when subterranean spaces become large enough for the overlying rock to collapse.

Remarkably, the discovery of the sinkhole in the geopark is the thirty-first known opening in the region. Another notable sinkhole, Xiaozhai Tiankeng, stands as one of China’s proudest geological achievements. This massive sinkhole, measuring 2,100 feet in depth, 2,000 feet in length, and 1,760 feet in width, features an interior stream, resembling a scene reminiscent of the popular game Minecraft.

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