Corkage in dehesas of Extremadura
The long history of human settlement in the Mediterranean Basin and the prevailing climatic limitations have forced the testing of multiple formulas for exploiting the forest capable of maintaining a mosaic of landscapes and productions within one of the current biodiversity hotspots on the planet.
The most notable example of this type of practice is found in the dehesas or wooded pastures of oak olm (Quercus ilex) and cork oak (Quercus suber), which are officially the most widespread High Natural Value Agrarian System in Europe (with 4.5 million of hectares), constituting an example of multi-productive exploitation valued worldwide for its sustainability.
In these silvopastoral systems there is high-quality livestock production and unique forest products: cork, firewood, charcoal, honey, cheese, game, Iberian pig products.
In addition, the maintenance of the tree layer generates unique additional products (especially cork and acorns) and reinforces fundamental ecosystem services, in cultural landscapes with a great cultural imprint based on the local and ethnographic knowledge of the rural communities that forge, care for and rationally manage this landscape.
In the case of the cork oak forests that concern us, their natural domain is rather small, about 2.5 million hectares, of which 27% is in Spain, concentrated mainly in the sub-western quadrant of the Iberian Peninsula, primarily in Extremadura region.
With the arrival of the heat, in the summer months, the corkage ritual begins in the dehesas of Extremadura, the extraction of the cork plates that will later be transformed into stoppers and granules, which will be distributed to all over the world, arranged to accompany the human being in millions of toasts and in sustainable construction materials.
A traditional activity that takes place in family groups and is passed down from generation to generation.
This image that I present to the contest I think could well summarize the importance of this agricultural, livestock, rural and cultural landscape.
Rural landscape category:
- Local and Traditional Knowledge Systems
- Cultures, Value Systems and Social Organisations
- Landscapes and Seascapes Features
Author(s): Álvaro Casanova
Photo Credit: Álvaro Casanova