Cork oak is an important tree species in the Mediterranean region with a total production of 250 500 tonnes of cork per year. Production of cork oak is threatened by the lack of natural regeneration, overgrazing, climate change, deforestation and fire. Since as early as 1990, there has been an increased interest in cork oak regeneration in the region.
Cork oak is a medium sized evergreen oak tree that grows in southwestern Europe and northwest Africa. The tree forms a corky bark that, over time, can develop considerable thickness which is harvested every 9 – 12 years as cork. During harvest, the tree remains standing while large sections of its outer bark are cut and peeled from the tree. A new layer of the tree regrows making cork a renewable resource.
A working group has been established to build partnerships between cork producers in several Model Forests in the Mediterranean region, including Spain, Algeria, Morocco, France, Italy and Tunisia. The working group is addressing several areas of common concern in cork production and marketing with a key interest in establishing a data bank of information on cork oak forests.
In November 2013, the Provence Model Forest organized a conference with other Mediterranean countries to share their regeneration methods and successful development tools. A 140 page technical report summarizes each presentation in detail.
As well, extensive research has been carried out by the Provence Model Forest on different technical procedures of cork oak restoration, including efficient harvesting techniques and best practices.
The cork oak regeneration project will continue this year with the establishment of a cork oak forest regeneration pilot site. It involves clear cutting and stumping, natural and artificial regeneration of acorns, planting, and installation of protective barriers against wildlife. Through the project, proponents also hope to propose reliable regeneration protocols for cork oak forests in the region.
The project also includes implementing new applications and uses for cork and developing a marketing strategy.
This project is managed in partnership with the ASL Suberaie Varoise (http://www.suberaievaroise.com/), the associations of cork oak owners of the Maures’ Forest in Provence.
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