The cork oak forests are well-adapted to the semi-arid regions of southern Europe, preventing desertification and providing the perfect habitat for many animal and plant species, including some rare and endangered species. Preserving the cork oak forest areas, and the cork's economic viability, is essential to maintain the biodiversity, avoiding desertification and promoting regional social stability. According to WWF, around one hundred thousand people in southern Europe and north Africa directly and indirectly depend on cork oak forests.
Cork production is assured with new plantations every year. Trees are never cut down or removed without strong government intervention, which prohibits this activity. Portugal, which produces more than 50% of the world's cork, has been particularly careful with this resource. The first Portuguese regulations protecting cork oak trees date to 13th century.
The role of cork in preventing the global heating is significant. The cork bark of the tree regenerates itself after harvesting and it is known that a harvested cork tree absorbs 3 to 5 times more carbon. A recent study indicated that Portuguese cork forests can absorb 4,8 million tons of carbon each year and it is estimated that Mediterranean cork forests can absorb over 14 million tons of carbon per year.
The cork industry itself is truly eco-efficient. All cork is used, not one gram of cork is wasted. Cork by-products, are used in different products (flooring, decorative items, automobile industry...), and recycling (post-industrial and post-consumer) is a common practice. Even cork dust is used to generate energy.