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Cork products

December 16th, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

One of the fire adaptations in some trees is a thick bark that protects stem buds and growing tissues from the high temperature of fire [1,2]. Cork oak (Quercus suber) is an outstanding example of a tree with this fire adaptation; it a Mediterranean tree that has a very thick insulating bark (the cork) that enables the tree to survive even high intensity fires and to resprout epicormically after fire [3-5]. The great characteristics of the cork, a natural, versatile and sustainable product, has made the cork a raw material for many uses. The cork is extracted from the trees every 9 to 12 years, and regrowth after that. The industrial characteristics of cork are many, including thermal and acoustic insulator, odorless, very light, elastic and compressible, with low capillarity, no toxic, imputrescible when dry, impermeable to liquid and gases, resistant to damage, non-flammable, organic, anti-static, hypoallergenic, and with natural touch. Consequently cork has been used for a wide range of products, although the most well-known cork product are the bottle stoppers. But the best is that the tree survives after cork extraction, and in fact, the use of cork justifies the conservation of private cork oak forests. The short message is: drink wines with cork stopper!

Fig. 1. The cork products that I have at home.

 Fig. 2. Other products made from cork. Photos taken in: Tunisia (A,C,D), the cork museum of Palafrugell, Girona, Spain (B, I), a shop in Tempio, Sardinia, Italy (E), the cork museum of Aggius, Sardinia, Italy (F,G,H).

References

[1] Pausas, J.G. 2015. Bark thickness and fire regime. Funct. Ecol. 29:317-327. [doi | pdf | suppl.]

[2] Pausas J.G. 2017. Bark thickness and fire regime: another twist. New Phytol. 213: 13-15. [doi | wiley | pdf

[3] Aronson J., Pereira J.S., Pausas J.G. (eds). 2009. Cork Oak Woodlands on the Edge: conservation, adaptive management, and restoration. Island Press, Washington DC. [The book]  

[4] Pausas, J.G. 1997. Resprouting of Quercus suber in NE Spain after fire. J. Veg. Sci. 8: 703-706. [doi | pdf]

[5] Pausas J.G. & Keeley J.E. 2017. Epicormic resprouting in fire-prone ecosystems. Trends Plant Sci. 22: 1008-1015. [doi | sciencedirect | pdf]  

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