Scientists believe an ancient forest that has been found at the bottom of a giant sinkhole in southern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region could contain undiscovered plant and animal species.
Cave explorers in the Guangxi's Leye County alerted scientists when they found the deep sinkhole, which contained a primitive forest with trees up to 40 meters tall.
Scientists trekked for hours to reach the base of the sinkhole, and discovered that, as well as the well-preserved primitive forest, there was dense undergrowth on the floor that came up to their shoulders, as well as three caves in its walls.
“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, who led the expedition team.
At 306 meters long, 150 meters wide and 192 meters deep, the sinkhole is the largest of 30 in Leye County, an area known as a karst landscape, formed primarily by the dissolution of bedrock by groundwater.
The sinkhole is rare in that, while deep, it is so shaped that enough light filters in, creating conditions in which large trees can grow.
[Cover image via Guangxi speleology research team 702]