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The cork-oak forest,
a source of biological richness

The cork-oak culture is the basis for “one of the greatest forest richness’s of the Mediterranean region and is even more precious due to the fact that this oak grows in conditions in which only a few species of poor forestry value can adapt. It places value upon large expanses which otherwise, and in other regions exposed to depredation by humans, would be irrevocably tied to the extreme poverty of certain arid regions.”

Cork-oak forests hold one of the highest diversity levels of Europe which is an additional argument in favour of their conservation. Further to this, this Mediterranean landscape is one of the world’s top 25 biodiversity hotspots.

The habitat of which cork-oaks are part of is home to exceptional animal species – some of which at risk of extinction such as the Iberian lynx and the Iberian Imperial Eagle – and is also one of the world’s richest vegetation heritages (up to 135 species per m2) after the Tropical Andes. The Natura 2000 Network, a European network which classifies regions for the conservation of nature, considers cork-oak forests (habitat 6310 and 9330) as playing an important role in the conservation of biodiversity.


Cork

Cork was the first tissue of plant origin to be observed under the microscope and for the first time described and drawn by Robert Hooke in 1696 (Natividade, 1956).
The movement of liquid and gaseous diffusion across the cell walls is extremely slow to such an extent that cork of 1mm width, made up of approximately 30 cell layers, provides a nearly perfect impermeability to liquids.

Cork Oak



The cork cell is a polyhedron of 14 faces. This geometric shape "allows a new identical cell to fit with the faces of the other cells leaving no empty spaces, an arrangement which, for a given volume and material, provides the largest surface with the lowest thermal conductivity coefficient". (Sampaio, 1976)

The secret to the value of the stopper lies also in the cellular composition, a network of membranes associated with suberin and other components such as lignin, polysaccharides and wax. The combination of these characteristics allows cork to seal the bottling that are the most delicate, the longest and the most difficult.