When uncorking a bottle of a good wine or using any of the dozens of products made from natural cork, have you ever stopped to wonder where it comes from? If so, come with us to discover the Cork Oak (Quercus suber), one of the most extraordinary trees on Earth. Whether fully clothed, in its arm-thick, fissured, light grey bark, or with brick red trunks recently undressed by a once-a-decade harvest of its corky clothing, this tree has great beauty, mystery and charm. The landscapes where it occurs have the same charm, or even more to those who know how to read them in Aronson J., Pereira J. S., Pauses J. (2009) “Cork Oak Woodlands on the Edge: Conservation. Adaptive Management and Restoration”, Island Press, New York
hectares of cork oak montado in Portugal
tons of CO2 retained per year by the montado
species of mammals One of the world's richest ecosystems
years is the average lifespan of a cork oak
The cork oak montado is one of 35 global biodiversity sanctuaries, similar to those of the Amazon, the African savannah, the Andes, or Borneo. The cork oak forests have over 160 species of birds, 24 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 37 species of mammals, some of which are at high risk of extinction, for example, the Iberian lynx, the world’s most endangered feline species. The cork oak montado is an authentic lung for the Environment, retaining up to 14 million tonnes of CO2 a year. It helps combat global warming and desertification, controls erosion, and regulates the water cycle.
The cork oak is the only plant species capable of producing cork in a sustainable manner and with the highest quality, resulting in an industry that is unique in the world, and that is vital for the maintenance of the montado and the preservation of the flora and fauna. It is a tree with voluminous bark with suberose tissue (the cork); it has green foliage all year round, and can reach up to 10 to 15 meters in height when adult. It has good longevity and an enormous capacity for regeneration.
The montado habitat, where the cork oak grows, is home to a wealth of natural biodiversity, including wildlife, grasslands and diverse flora. It has wide variety of species of animals and plants that form part of the food chain centred around the cork oak. The Natura 2000 Network considers the cork oak montados and woods to be important for the preservation of the biodiversity. The montado is still one of the 35 hotspots of the biodiversity, on a par with Amazon, or Borneo.
Cork helps to ensure the sustainability of the montados, contributing to a balanced relationship with nature and the maintenance of the ecosystems that are linked to it. The montados play an essential role in water regulation, and in protecting the soil and carbon sequestration. The cork industry therefore provides a guarantee of a more promising future due to the environmental, economic and social sustainability that it advocates.
The certification of forest management is a mechanism that is designed to ensure the sustainable management of forest ecosystems through compliance with management standards that meet environmental and socioeconomic criteria.
They say that the cork forest is magical, that it can bewitch the unsuspecting and catch them in its spell. Eduardo Gonçalves, 37, was one of its victims.
The son of Portuguese parents working in London, he was born there, and there he studied and lived until the age of 30, when he gave in to the charms of the cork forests and to the memories of the childhood holidays.