Sustainability and Cork Oak
Cork is the outer bark of the cork oak tree Quercus Suber which grows mainly in south west Europe and north west Africa. Cork oak forests cover approximately 25,000 square kilometres in those countries (equivalent to almost 2.5 million hectares). Portugal accounts for around 50% of the world cork harvest.
Cork Oak trees live for approximately 250 years and each tree must be 20 to 25 years old before it can be first harvested. This first 'virgin' bark is irregular and it is only after that initial harvest that the new layer of cork grows that is ideal for cork stoppers. Subsequent harvests are every 9 to 12 years. In Portugal trees are monitored stringently by the Ministry of Agriculture and cork trees can not legally be cut down except for forest management felling of old, unproductive trees.
Cork wood is produced by stripping the bark off the tree but does not harm or kill the tree as many people believe. Harvesting is performed by hand with traditional tools, minimising environmental impact and actually improving the health of the tree. As a testament to the success of these methods, not only are the cork forests thriving, but the total volume of harvestable trees is expanding year over year.
One of our key responsibilities of M.A. Silva is to actively promote sustainable forestry practices throughout the cork growing region of southern Portugal. The districts of Alentego and Algarve, offer a nearly perfect combination of climate
Cork oaks remove CO2 (a greenhouse gas) from the air as they grow. The cork forests of Portugal are diverse, healthy ecologies, supporting a variety of plants and animals including rare and endangered species like the Iberian Lynx.