Cork and the cork oak
The cork oak (Quercus Suber L.) is a tree belonging to the oak family, from which cork is extracted. Its value is based not only on the products extracted from the tree, but on all of the agricultural, forest, silvopastoral and hunting activities that revolve around the cultivation of the cork oak. Regular extraction of the cork is a fundamental contribution for environmental, economic and social sustainability of the rural areas of the Mediterranean region where the cork oak may be found.
The cork oak is an essential component of a combination of semi-natural ecosystems, of which the montados are a paradigm. Multifunctional systems of land use, they integrate cultural landscapes of high historic and social value. Cork Oaks are reasonably tolerant to drought, have deep root systems that capture water from the soil depths - far from competition with other plants - and are able to face the stress of the dry and hot Mediterranean summers. In addition to providing cork and products such as game or pastures, montados and cork oak woods provide important functions such as regulating the water cycle and preserving the soil, playing an important part in the fight against desertification, of particular importance in regions such as northern Africa or southern Portugal and Spain.