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South China Karst, World Natural Heritage

Recommended itineraries of Karst Tour:
>>>> Yunnan Tours
Karst is a geological process in which water (acidic, with CO2) dissolves carbonate bedrock (usually limestone, dolomite, or marble). Usually occurring over thousands of years, karst features unusual surface and subsurface landforms: sinkholes, vertical shafts, streams, springs, underground caves, etc.
It is estimated that Karst landscape areas cover 12% of global continental areas, mainly in the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Southeast Asia, Southeast America, and Caribbean. Of all karst regions of the world, the South China Karst, inscribed on the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List in 2007 and 2014 in two batches, is unrivalled in terms of area, depth, diversity of karst forms, and biodiversity.
The South China Karst comprises seven selected karst clusters: Shilin in Yunnan, Libo and Shibng in Guizhou, Wulong in Chongqing and Guilin and Huanjiang in Guangxi Province. According to UNESCO World Heritage Convention, these areas are considered of outstanding universal value which present, and protect, the earth’s best examples of humid tropical to subtropical karst features and landscapes, and are of significance in studying geological evolution. The South China Karst contains a cross-section of key features of the geology of the area including the deposition of carbonates up to the Triassic period (250 million years ago) and the subsequent tectonic evolution of the area during the Quaternary period (about 2 million years ago) including the tectonic uplift of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and its geological histories have been little affected by glaciation.
Key Features of South China Karst Sites: Shilin, Libo and Wulong
SiteKey Features & Description
Shillin Karst
World's only karst landscape in the subtropical plateau area, enjoying the fame of ‘the First Wonder of the World’

The stone forests of Shilin are considered superlative natural phenomena and the world reference site for this type of feature. Major developments in the stone forests occurred over some 270 million years during four major geological time periods from the Permian to present, illustrating the episodic nature of the evolution of these karst features.

Contains a wider range of pinnacle shapes than other karst landscapes with pinnacles, and a higher diversity of shapes and colours that change with different weather and light conditions

Nagu Stone Forrest, representative scenic area in Shilin, characterized by typical karst terrain evolved from dolomite rocks; and, Suyishan Stone Forest arising from a lake.
Libo Karst
Distinctive and beautiful landscape of cone and tower karsts, also considered the world reference site for these types of karst features.

Carbonate outcrops of different ages that erosive processes shaped over millions of years into impressive fengcong (cone) and fenglin (tower) karsts.

Full spectra of numerous tall karst peaks, deep dolines, sinking streams and long river caves, illustrating the geomorphological exchange and evolution between cone karsts and tower karsts.

Enlisted as one of the Ten Most Beautiful Forests of China.

Extremely rich biodiversity thanks to the favorable natural environment. Maolan Karst Forest Natural Conservation, a splendid karst ecosystem, and ideal habitat for thousands of rare and endangered animals.

The habitat for the various ethnic minority groups of Buyi, Shui, Miao, and Yi, who developed lifestyles that were compatible with karst environment.

The Maolan Karst Forest Natural Conservation is a splendid karst ecosystem featuring biodiversity. In the conservation area, the primeval subtropical karst forest is well preserved. The favorable natural environment makes this scenic area an ideal habitat for thousands of rare and endangered animals.
Wulong Karst
Spectacular karst features are of world class quality: giant deep limestone doline (several hundred meters deep), called Tiankeng, fissures, and exceptionally high natural stone arch bridges (up to 281m high) between which are long stretches of very deep unroofed caves systems.

Representative of high inland karst plateaus where Thick sequences of pure carbonate rocks have been subjected to tectonic uplift.

Classic sites of deep gorge karst, unique for their rich information about the long history of geological evolution kept in the Furong Cave, as well as the changes from peneplains on different altitudes above knickpoints to the deeply dissected gorge nearby

Wulong's landscapes contain evidence for the history of one of the world's great river systems, the Yangtze and its tributaries
Biodiversity in the South China Karst Areas
The nature reserves of the South China Karst also boast exceptional biodiversity value, being home to wide varieties of flora and fauna species including some globally or nationally endangered species, making it significant to the research into the occurrence, composition and evolution of karst eco-systems.
Comparison of Biodiversity (number of species) between South China Karst and other World Heritage Sites
Name and Size of World Heritage Sites
Plants Mammals Birds   Reptiles and Amphibians Fish
Shilin Karst
12,070 ha
Libo Karst
29,518 ha
Wulong Karst
6,000 ha
70,000 ha
26,400 ha
Landscape of South China Karst
 Mushroom-shaped karst feature, Shilin stone forest, Yunnan, South China KarstShilin Stone Forest, South China Karst
Mushroom-shaped karst feature, Shilin stone forest, Yunnan Shilin stone forest, Yunnan
Stone forest arising from a lake, Shilin, South China KarstCone karsts, Libo, South China Karst
 Stone forest arising from a lake, Shilin Cone karsts, Libo
Tower karsts, Libo, South China KarstMolan National Nature Reserve, Libo, South China Karst
Tower karsts, LiboThe Molan National Nature Reserve in Libo, Guizhou, eleced one of top ten most beautiful forests in China.
 Karst forest, Molan National Nature Reserve, Libo, Guizhou, South China KarstFurong (Hibiscus) River, Wulong karst, Chongqing, South China Karst
Karst forest, Molan National Nature Reserve, Libo, GuizhouFurong (Hibiscus) River, Wulong karst, Chongqing
Tiankeng (giant dolines) of Wulong karst landform are of world-class quality. South China KarstYuanyang Lake, Libo, Guizhou, South China Karst
Tiankeng (giant dolines) of Wulong karst landform are of world-class quality. Yuanyang Lake, Libo, Guizhou
 Stalactites hanging in Furong Cave, Wulong karst landform, South China KarstNatural bridge, Wulong karst landform, South China Karst
Stalactites hanging in Furong Cave, Wulong karst landform Natural bridge, Wulong karst landform
 Natural bridge, Wulong karst landform, South China KarstSword-shaped stone forest, Shilin karst, South China Karst
Natural bridge, Wulong karst landform Sword-shaped stone forest, Shilin karst
Flora & Fauna Species Protected in the South China Karst Areas
Syrmaticus ellioti, listed as vulnerable in China Red List,  under state protection, South China Karst Trachypithecus francois, or black monkey, rare and precious, under first-class state protection, South China Karst
Syrmaticus ellioti, listed as vulnerable in China Red List,  under state protection
 Trachypithecus francois, or black monkey, rare and precious, under first-class state protection
 Tetrathyrium subcordatum, South China Karst  Hipposideros armiger, bats found in the karst caves, South China Karst
 Tetrathyrium subcordatum Hipposideros armiger, bats found in the karst caves
 Chrysolophus pictus, South China KarstPaphiopedium malipoense, South China Karst
Chrysolophus pictus
 Paphiopedium malipoense
Manis pentadactyla, under state protection, South China KarstMacaca mulatta, under state protection, South China Karst
Manis pentadactyla, under state protection Macaca mulatta, under state protection
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