Abandoning wine corks risks screwing up landscape in Portugal

Abandoning wine corks for screw tops and plastic substitutes is not only flying in the face of tradition, it is also damaging to the environment. It is a point being made in “Save Miguel”, an online campaign by the world’s leading cork maker Amorim Corticeira, which follows a WWF report detailing how traditional cork forests are holding back desertification in Portugal. In the campaign video American comedian Rob Schneider travels to Portugal on a mission to “Save Miguel”, an oak tree in the heart of the cork-growing region.

The WWF report, “The Cork Oak, a Barrier Against Desertification”, urges Portugal to expand its cork forests to prevent growing desertification caused by global warming.

“Portuguese forests may face an environmental and economic crisis that will move the desertification border in Portugal north, unless we act now and adapt to the climate changes,” said WWF Forest Officer Luis Silva.

Portugal is the world’s largest producer of cork used in wine bottles but the density of trees in cork forests has fallen in recent years.

Because cork trees are not cut down and water is retained in the forests because of falling leaves they are uniquely environmentally sustainable. The bark of individual trees is cut for cork only every nine years.

The report finds that if Portugal were to expand its current cork forests by just 20 per cent, desertification could be effectively stopped by the year 2020.

The Amorim Corticeira campaign is aimed at young users of popular websites such as Facebook and YouTube. It also blends pro-environment and sustainability ideas with humour.

“The cork industry in general is under attack from alternative wine bottle closures,” said Carlos de Jesus, Amorim marketing director. “If cork growers lose the cash interest, they will plant something else, jeopardizing the sustainability chain.”

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