Cork oak and forest conservation
Forestry and forest resources occupy 38% of the total land surface of Portugal and in recent times they have contributed immensely to Portugal’s soaring economy and in fact in the year 2000 an estimated 25% increase could be observed in case of forest product exports compared to the previous year. One of the premier forest resources obtained form the forests of Portugal is cork which is obtained from the barks of the cork oak tree and it is significant to note that certain properties and functions of the cork oak tree facilitate forest conservation in Portugal. The cork oak trees cover extensive areas of vegetation in Portugal and are an evergreen tree with dark green foliage. The Mediterranean climate in Portugal is extremely conducive to the growth of this tree in abundance and Portugal alone is the largest producer of cork accounting for about 50% of total world production. The most important feature of the cork oak tree is that it is extremely beneficial as it produces cork, which is actually the bark of the cork oak tree. After about 25 years, the bark of the cork oak tree which is rugged and hard, is scrapped off and what is interesting to note in this respect that once a layer is removed, a new layer begins to grow in its place and therefore continuous production is assured unless the plant decays. Moreover, the cork oak trees can survive as long as 150 to 200 years and therefore production of cork is thus certain for a long duration.
Cork oak trees are extremely instrumental in ensuring that they maintain the ecological balance and do not harm the ecosystem of the forest. The most significant output of the cork oak tree is cork which is used mostly and cork stoppers for wine bottles and it is to be noted that even in its production, no mechanical or chemical process is involved and therefore the forest environment remains unaffected.