630-foot sinkhole in China reveals massive ancient forest world
By: April Carson
The discovery of unknown species may be hiding in this yawning chasm.
A big new sinkhole with a forest at its bottom has been discovered by a Chinese research team.
According to Xinhua News, the sinkhole is 630 feet (192 meters) deep, large enough to swallow St. Louis' Gateway Arch whole. On Friday (May 6), a speleological and spelunking crew rappelled into the sinkhole to discover three cave entrances within it, as well as ancient trees that grew 131 feet tall and stretched their limbs toward the light that streamed in through the sinkhole entrance.
"This is excellent news," said George Veni, the executive director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) in the United States, and an international cave expert. Veni was not involved in the cave's exploration, but it was carried out by a sister institution of NCKRI: China Geological Survey's Institute of Karst Geology.
"To find a sinkhole of that size with three entrances is highly unusual," Veni said. "It's a very significant discovery."
The sinkhole is part of a larger karst landscape in Guizhou Province, which is home to some of the world's oldest and largest karst features. The area is renowned for its karst caves, pits, and sinkholes.
The finding isn't a surprise, according to Veni. Because of karst topography's propensity for large sinkholes and otherworldly caves, southern China is home to it. The breakup of rock is responsible for the majority of karst areas,' he added. Rainwater, which is slightly acidic, absorbs carbon dioxide as it passes through the earth, becoming more acidic. It then trickles, rushes, and flows through fissures in the rock toward the surface, slowly expanding them into tunnels and voids. If a cave chamber gets large enough over time, the ceiling may gradually collapse, creating enormous sinkholes.
Because of local variations in geology, climate, and other factors, the way karst appears at the surface may vary significantly. So in China, you have this incredibly visually stunning karst with enormous sinkholes and colossal cave entrances and so on. "There may be a lot of limestone karsts in Asia, and the sinkholes can be very tiny.
You might not notice anything on a limestone karst outside of China. Sinkholes may only be a few feet in diameter, which is why they're sometimes referred to as "worms." Cave entrances are often tiny, so you'll have to squeeze your way in.
Karst and pseudokarst features caves carved by such processes as volcanic or wind, not dissolution. Approximately 20% of the planet's surface is covered in one of these two cave-rich terrains. About 25% of the United States is karst or pseudokarst.
A new cave was discovered in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, near Ping'e village in Leye county, according to Xinhua. The spectacular karst formations of Guangxi range from sinkholes to rock pillars to natural bridges and have been given UNESCO world heritage status.
Why should you care about sinkholes?
Zhang Yuanhai, a senior engineer with the Institute of Karst Geology's Institute of Geological Sciences, said the sinkhole's interior is 1,004 feet (306 m) long and 492 feet (150 m) wide. The term "tiankeng," or "heavenly pit," refers to extremely large sinkholes, and the bottom of the sinkhole did seem like another planet. Chen Lixin, who headed up the cave expedition team, said that while exploring they had come upon dense underbrush that was as tall as a person's shoulders. Sinkholes and karst caves can provide a haven for life, according to Veni.
"I'd be surprised if there weren't any species that had never been discovered or described by science before," Lixin added.
Tropical ferns grow abundantly in one West Texas cavern, according to Veni; the spores of the ferns were presumably carried to the sheltered location by bats that migrate to South and Central America.
Sinkholes and caverns provide sanctuary for life as well as a passage to subterranean water reserves, according to Veni. Karst aquifers supply drinking water for 700 million people worldwide. They're easily available and drainable, but they can also get contaminated.
"Water is a precious resource, and we need to be responsible in how we use it. The only type of aquifer that you can pollute with solid waste is Karst aquifers." "I've pulled car batteries, automobile bodies, and God-knows-what else out of the active cave stream," Veni added.
Xinhua reported that a new sinkhole has been discovered in Leye County, bringing the tally of sinkholes to 30. A cluster of interconnected sinkholes was previously found in Guangxi, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, according on China Daily.
This study was originally presented on Live Science.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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