Cork oak forests cover approximately 2.5 million hectares across the Mediterranean region and most of them are located in seven countries: Portugal, Algeria, Spain, Morocco, France, Italy and Tunisia.
Sustainable cork harvesting has been common practice in Portugal for more than 3,000 years. The Rainforest Alliance has certified the Fruticor cork farm as sustainable. The stripping of the bark does not harm the tree in any way and the bark grows back completely, taking on a smoother texture after each harvest. A cork oak tree can be safely harvested up to 20 times during its life cycle, making cork a truly inexhaustible natural resource. Each tree is nurtured from seed and thrives without the use of any chemical herbicides, fertilizers, or irrigation. This method proves beneficial for the plentiful surrounding wildlife, the growing Cork Oaks, and the sustainable products they supply.
Mediterranean cork oak forests host a rich diversity of wildlife including Iberian lynx, imperial eagle and Barbary deer.
Cork forests are also a vital source of income for many people who sustainably harvest the trees for wine corks. All parts of the cork are used. The best sections are used for bottle stoppers. The rest of the cork is used for composite corks, shoe heels (such as Birkenstocks), flooring, insulation, handles for fishing rods, the nose of the NASA space shuttle, even birdies for badminton.