Only nature is able to create something that is as perfect and complete as the cork oak. It is an ecological miracle from the roots right up to the treetop, with every part holding a benefit for the environment. One of its many talents is that it can bind large quantities of CO2.
Cork is a natural resource. Its harvesting has no negative impact whatsoever on our ecosystem. Quite the opposite is the case: the natural as well as the planted cork oak forests are of utmost importance for the environment of the Mediterranean basin and our planet:
one of the cork oak’s most remarkable abilities is that it can bind large quantities of CO2 – which is nothing less than the greenhouse gas which contributes to global warming. Carbon dioxide absorbs a part of the heat emitted by the earth into the atmosphere and reflects it. Once emitted into the atmosphere, CO2, contrary to other substances, does not decompose itself. That’s what makes the cork oak forests in the Mediterranean region an essential green lung of our planet.
In particular we humans leave a considerable ecological footprint. Worldwide, more and more carbon dioxide is emitted as a result of burning fossil fuels or heating. According to the Federal German Environmental Agency, the global increase in the emission of greenhouse gases has tripled during the 20th century. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted that, in 2030, oil, gas and coal will still account for the highest share of the energy mix as a whole. According to this forecast, the CO2 emissions will increase by another 57%.
And that’s where cork oak forests come into play: in the global effort to fight climate change, cork oak forests contribute a CO2 absorption capacity of approximately 14 million tons per year. In practice, this means that less than 1.5 hectare of forest with a tree population of at least 30 to 40% of cork oaks can compensate the annual CO2 emission of a medium-sized car. Let us be even more precise: every year, the cork oak forests in the Mediterranean region bind approximately 14 million tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. This equals approximately 10% of the CO2 emissions of German road traffic.
This is by no means the end of the cork oak’s talents. We will tell you how the cork oak forests make an important contribution to preserving biological diversity and at the same time create new jobs in part 2 of our series about the natural wonders of the cork oak!