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Primitive forest under sink hole

Date: 25 May 2022 Tags: Geography & Environment

Issue

 An ancient forest was discovered at the bottom of a giant karst sinkhole in Leye County in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

 

Background

The forest was discovered by a team of cave explorers looking to study giant sinkholes called Tiankeng or “heavenly pit”.

 

Details

  • The dimension of the sinkhole is 306 metres in length, is 150 metres in width and 192 metres in depth, with its volume going above 5 million cubic meters.

  • The sinkhole has three caves in the walls and the bottom hosts a primitive forest with trees as tall as 40 metres high.

  • This is not the first sinkhole discovered in China. In 2016, scientists had discovered the world’s largest cluster of sinkholes in northwest Shaanxi province.

 

Formation of sinkholes

  • Sinkholes are depressions on the ground that are formed when Earth’s surface layers start collapsing into caverns. 

  • The collapse can take place suddenly as the land under the surface of the Earth can stay intact for a period of time.

 

Reasons for occurrence

  • Sinkholes can be formed naturally or through human activities. They can be seen in ‘karst’ topography where the rock below the surface can be easily dissolved by groundwater.

  • As groundwater starts dissolving rocks, it starts creating spaces. The process takes thousands of years to form a sinkhole.

  • Karst topography can be majorly found in limestone and dolomite.  Distinctive landforms such as caves, sinkholes and springs form as a result of dissolution.

  • Human activities such as broken land drains, water mains and sewerage pipes, increased rainfall, storm events, underlying limestone and diverted surface water can cause sinking of ground.

 

Occurrence of sinkholes across the world

  • Sinkholes have been formed in China due to mining of coal, zinc, lead and iron ore deposits in karst areas.

  • Such landscapes are common across US states of Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee.

  • Mexico, parts of Italy and Russia are prone to sinkholes. Central American countries such as Guatemala have seen formation of sinkholes.

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