The Importance of the Cork Oak Tree

INDISPENSABLE FOR HUMANS & ANIMALS ALIKE

About 34% of the world’s cork oak forests (Quercus Suber), or 736.000 hectares, are located in Portugal. These vast and breath-taking forests are emblematic for the Portuguese landscape, and responsible for the conversion of 14million tons of CO2 every year. The cork bark, which can be removed in a sustainable way, is a renewable source of exceptional material that can be used for a variety of purposes. If managed properly these amazing trees can continue to provide clean air and cork bark for up to 200 years.

However, cork oak forests play an even bigger and more important role in the ecosystem. They provide a home to countless plants and animals, including highly endangered species such as the Iberian lynx, and play a key role in keeping the ground healthy and avoiding soil erosion. Without these trees, both the biodiversity as the vital source of income of thousands of people would be endangered.

Preserving the cork oak forests therefore does not only mean safeguarding a renewable source of material but also the well-being of the entire Mediterranean region.

A WWF Priority

The WWF has classified a select group of plant or animal species as a priority, and is focussing its resources and efforts to help safeguard them. A species can be a priority because it plays a vital role in the ecosystem (f.e. key element in food chain, their impact on overall habitat) or for human society (f.e. driving health and livelihood of communities or cultural value). The cork oak is part of this list.
~|icon_cloud~|elegant-themes~|solid

%

Of the world's cork forests are located in Portugal

Million tons of CO2 converted to oxygen each year

Plant & Animal species can be found per square meter

Portuguese people employed by the cork industry

Home to a Biodiversity

Home to a Biodiversity

The Portuguese cork forests host an incredibly rich diversity of wildlife (including the endangered Iberian lynx, the imperial eagle, the barbary deer, and rare species of birds) as well as numerous fungi and other plant life (up to 150 species per square meter).
Caretaker of the Land

Caretaker of the Land

The forests play a key role in carbon storage, maintaining watersheds, as well as preventing soil erosion and retaining vital minerals in the ground. Without them, large areas could succumb to desertification which would negatively affect human, animal and plant life alike.
Vital Source of Income

Vital Source of Income

More than 9000 Portuguese people are directly employed by the cork industry and rely on these forests to provide for their families. The 700 Portuguese companies active in the industry add almost a billion euro to Portugal’s GDP every year, as such playing a key role in the overall economic health and development of the country.

The Fragile Cork Ecosystem

IS UNDER PRESSURE

The divers ecosystem that is enabled by cork forests is under pressure despite the clear advantages it offers. Besides the threat of illegal logging there is also the risk of mismanagement or lack of proper conservation (as 85% of the cork forest is privately owned). This while the scientific community agrees that the Iberian cork forest ecosystem requires human intervention and maintenance for its survival :

Lack of knowledge can lead to inadequate management practices such as the use of heavy machinery to control shrub encroachment but which damages soil structure and surface tree roots, pests and diseases, cohorts of trees reaching their age limit without proper replacement, etc.

A lower demand for cork products such as cork bottle stoppers (in favour of synthetic alternatives or metal screw caps) is putting the entire industry under pressure and can drive people away from the rural areas towards the cities. Leaving the cork forests without maintenance or care is not only dangerous for the equilibrium of the habitat, but also increases the risk for destructive forest fires.

Moreover, the cork forests themselves lose ground in favour of agricultural or recreational uses. This further reducing the size of an already fragile habitat, whilst risking even faster soil erosion and desertification of the whole area.

Finally, seeing the significant number of Portuguese people relying on the cork industry, there is also the risk of increased poverty in case of strong decline in the sector. This as there are not enough economic alternatives to take on the full active workforce.

The Fragile Cork Ecosystem

IS UNDER PRESSURE

The divers ecosystem that is enabled by cork forests is under pressure despite the clear advantages it offers. Besides the threat of illegal logging there is also the risk of mismanagement or lack of proper conservation (as 85% of the cork forest is privately owned). This while the scientific community agrees that the Iberian cork forest ecosystem requires human intervention and maintenance for its survival :

1. Lack of knowledge can lead to inadequate management practices such as the use of heavy machinery to control shrub encroachment but which damages soil structure and surface tree roots, pests and diseases, cohorts of trees reaching their age limit without proper replacement, etc.

2. A lower demand for cork products such as cork bottle stoppers (in favour of synthetic alternatives or metal screw caps) is putting the entire industry under pressure and can drive people away from the rural areas towards the cities. Leaving the cork forests without maintenance or care is not only dangerous for the equilibrium of the habitat, but also increases the risk for destructive forest fires.

3. Moreover, the cork forests themselves lose ground in favour of agricultural or recreational uses. This further reducing the size of an already fragile habitat, whilst risking even faster soil erosion and desertification of the whole area.

4. Finally, seeing the significant number of Portuguese people relying on the cork industry, there is also the risk of increased poverty in case of strong decline in the sector. This as there are not enough economic alternatives to take on the full active workforce.

The WWF Action Plan

THREE FOCUS POINTS

R~|icon_check_alt2~|elegant-themes~|outline

Knowledge

Combining and sharing all best practices for land maintenance with the different land owners

R~|icon_check_alt2~|elegant-themes~|outline

Recommendations

Developed in collaboration with local Portuguese universities to influence policy change and implementation

R~|icon_check_alt2~|elegant-themes~|outline

Awareness

Amongst both the cork industry as the consumer to stimulate the demand for sustainable cork bark

If you want to learn more about the WWF’s engagement please visit their website.

How Urban Design Fox helps

AND YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE

We at Urban Design Fox want to help the WWF with preserving the delicate ecosystem that is enabled by the cork oak forests. That is why we are committed to donate the resources needed to maintain this beautiful yet fragile ecosystem. Concretely, for every item that we sell we will provide the WWF with the funds to conserve 10m² of Portuguese cork oak forest. On top, by using cork in our furniture, we also positively impact the Portuguese people that rely on the industry to provide for their families.

How Urban Design Fox helps

AND YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE

We at Urban Design Fox want to help the WWF with preserving the delicate ecosystem that is enabled by the cork oak forests. That is why we are committed to donate the resources needed to maintain this beautiful yet fragile ecosystem. Concretely, for every table that we sell we will provide the WWF with the funds to conserve 10m² of Portuguese cork oak forest. On top, by using cork in our furniture, we also positively impact the Portuguese people that rely on the industry to provide for their families.

Together We Have Already Conserved

Square Meters of Cork Oak Forest

Together We Have Already Conserved

Square Meters of Cork Oak Forest

This Area is Widget-Ready

You can place here any widget you want!

You can also display any layout saved in Divi Library.

Let’s try with contact form: