Scientists have expressed enthusiasm after the discovery of an ancient forest at the bottom of a giant sinkhole in the Guangxi region of southern China. The forest contains both undergrowth and tall trees, some reaching up to 130 feet in height, and was first stumbled upon by cave explorers who notified scientists to have a look at it. 

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The region in Leye County is known for its predominant caves and sinkholes. Scientists say that the forest could contain plant and animal species yet to be identified. The discovery of the forest now gives researchers a new area of focus.

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The forest expands from 306 meters long to 150 meters wide. The depth of the hole is about 192 meters, although the hole is well shaped to allow the penetration of light. 

According to Zhang Yuanhai, a senior engineer at the Institute of Karst Geology of the China Geological Survey, the sinkhole has three caves in its walls with well preserved ancient forests. Chen Lixin, one of the researchers who trekked for hours to observe the forest, says that it is a good ground to search for new species.

“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,” Lixin said.

Lixin told reporters that they found thick undergrowth at the bottom, which came up to his shoulders. The trees were found to be taller than you would expect for an underground forest. 

The forest was discovered in a karst landscape formed by the dissolution of bedrock by groundwater, which creates dramatic sinkholes and caves. The shapes of the holes and caves provide the light needed for the growth of forests.

The discovery of the ancient forest spells good tidings for the modern world, considering massive biodiversity loss. Recent research has found that plant species are going extinct at a rate 500 times faster than in pre-industrial times. With the discovery of such forests, we may have a second chance to redeem some of the already lost species.

Via The Guardian

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