A huge sinkhole has been discovered in southern China and inside scientists found an ancient forest of trees and plants which may contain species not yet discovered
An ancient forest has been discovered more than 600 feet underground in a sinkhole in China .
The forest of trees and plants was discovered by explorers on May 6 in Leye County in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and could contain species not yet discovered.
Three entrances were found inside the cave which measures 1,004 feet long and 492 feet wide.
A team of scientists rappelled into the sinkhole on its discovery where they found ancient trees 131 feet tall stretching their branches towards the sun at the sinkhole entrance.
Southern China is home to karst topography, a landscape characterised by caves, sinkholes and underground streams.
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Chen Lixin, the expedition team leader, told Live Science : “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.”
George Veni, executive director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) in America, explained that China’s landscape offers access to giant sinkholes which are incredible to explore.
He said: “Because of local differences in geology, climate and other factors, the way karst appears at the surface can be dramatically different.
“So in China you have this incredibly visually spectacular karst with enormous sinkholes and giant cave entrances and so forth.
“In other parts of the world you walk out on the karst and you really don’t notice anything.
“Sinkholes might be quite subdued, only a meter or two in diameter. Cave entrances might be very small, so you have to squeeze your way into them.”
Sinkholes and caves can be refuges for life and hold deep stores of underground water known as Karst aquifers.
These provide the primary water source for around 700 million people around the world.
In the United States, around 40 per cent of groundwater used for drinking comes from Karst aquifers.
This can be problematic when the water sources become polluted by human activity.
Sinkholes are formed when slightly acidic rainwater starts to dissolve the bedrock in a karst landscape.
As the water runs through the soil it collects carbon dioxide making it more acidic.
The water then flows through cracks in the bedrock and eventually hollows into tunnels and voids.
When the holes become big enough it causes the ceiling to collapse and form into a sinkhole.
The latest discovery is the 30th sinkhole to be discovered in the region in China.
China also has the largest sinkhole in the world located in Xiaozhai Tiankeng measuring 2,100 feet deep, 2,000 feet long and 1,760 feet wide.
It is known as the heavenly pit and was formed due to soil being trapped in the limestone.
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