Second World Cork Congress

The Second World Cork Congress will be happening on 30th of September in Lisbon, Portugal. For all of those interested in such important non-wood forest Product (NWFP) this Congress will be a must. It will be in organised in four sections:

  • Session 1: Forest, production and sustainability
  • Session 2: Cork Stoppers – a decade ofcontinuous evolution
  • Session 3: Cork – construction, architectural and design materials
  • Session 4: Cork stoppers – keeping up the momentum

Registrations to the 2nd Cork World Congress will be accepted until the 24th of Setember: Registration Form. More details about the programme are available: Programme

Bioclimatic limits on tree survival

tree survival

Dr Patrick Mitchell from CSIRO, Australia, will be delivering a seminar on “Defining past and future bioclimatic limits on tree survival during drought: a case study from southern Australia” on the 21th of September at the Forestry Auditorium from the Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Lisbon, Portugal.

Abstract of the Seminar provided by Dr Patrick Mitchell :

“Drought-induced tree mortality in natural ecosystems is thought to be increasing worldwide. Many tree species show a large degree of plasticity in their ability to cope with changes in water availability under variable climates.  Southern Australia exhibits inter-decadal shifts in rainfall and future climate scenarios in this region show significant increases in the frequency and areal extent of exceptionally hot and dry periods.  Few studies to date have related such predictions to the observed bioclimatic limits that determine tree survival.  In this presentation, the history of drought-induced mortality events across southern Australia is reviewed with the objective of defining the climatic drivers of mortality within the context of the underlying physiological mechanisms involved in tree death.  The observed climate patterns were assessed using standardised precipitation and evapotranspiration indices (SPEI) and heat stress values for several mortality sites across the region.  The majority of mortality events represented periods when both SPEI and heat stress were above their 95th percentile and were exceptional events in terms of either their intensity or duration.  The conditions needed to produce the observed mortality events fell well outside the normal operating ranges of these species and were exacerbated by acute heat stress in most cases.  I will present future drought scenarios and a sensitivity analysis of changes in temperature and rainfall in defining the drought type and its effect on plant functioning.  Results from drought physiology experiments will also be discussed in the context of the climate drivers of mortality and the physiological pathway of tree mortality for some commercially-important tree species worldwide.”

Climate change in New Zealand

Dr Dean Meason from Scion, New Zealand, will be giving a seminar on “Preparing for climate change in New Zealand; impacts on forests, opportunities for mitigation, and development of adaptation strategies” on the 14th of September at the Forestry Auditorium from the Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Lisbon, Portugal.

Abstract of the Seminar provided by Dr Dean Meason:

“New Zealand’s economy is reliant on exports from its agricultural and planted forest sectors. This makes New Zealand particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change (CC). New Zealand is tackling the challenge of CC by assessing the potential impact on agriculture and forestry and is developing adaptation and mitigation strategies such as the implementation of an emissions trading scheme (ETS). Of greatest concern is the effect of increased frequency and intensity of storm events, but in the longer term increased impacts of drought, pests, weeds and fire are expected. Overall (in the absence of the aforementioned impacts) average forest productivity is expected to increase only slightly with increased temperature, though if CO2 fertilisation is factored in productivity increases could be significant.
Scion has developed an accurate, nation wide carbon accounting scheme to meet its Kyoto obligations. Scion has identified the potential to sequester significant amounts of carbon in new forests established on marginal agricultural land. Research on forest carbon dynamics, new forest species, assessment of biotic and abiotic risks, and silviculture underpins New Zealand’s ETS. This is one of the few operational ETS systems in the world where emissions can be offset by the establishment of new forests.
Research is moving from impacts and mitigation towards development of adaptation strategies though this is still very much in the early stage of development. A key focus is on research that integrates across the whole primary sector and spans biophysical, forest management and business aspects.”

Forest fires in Portugal

Portuguese forest fires

Forest fires are extremely important in the Portuguese forestry sector. Every year there are forest fires although the number of forest fires and the area burned can vary considerably from year to year. The issue of forest fires is complex and politicians tend to speak about it in the Summer for forgetting it almost straight afterwards. Certainly the problem of forest fires is not exclusive to Portugal, everyone can hear often about forest fires in California, or in Australia, or in Greece, or in many other countries that tend to have hot and dry summers. In Portugal forests occupy more than one third of the territory and therefore the big issues of forests are important to the whole country. However it was necessary the huge area burned by forest fires in 2003 to this problem take an national importance that should have been acknowledge before. Still there is certainly a lot needed to be done regarding several issues.

Instituto Superior Agronomia Video

Instituto Superior de Agronomia, the place where I work, has released a new video to promote its study courses. It seems to me that is difficult to add more images than what was added in this video as the video is incredibly short (about 33 seconds). However, being a forester and having done my forestry degree at Instituto Superior de Agronomia, I have to confess that I found that there is an absence of images related with forestry which makes this video a bit poor to promote the forestry course. As a positive note it is certainly a good idea to make this video and is a step forward to make it. Hopefully next time it will be a better one. Finally I am convinced that for those interested to make a degree in agriculture, forestry, landscape architecture and agro-industry will have at Instituto Superior de Agronomia a very good option to choose from.

Stone pine in Portugal

Pinus pinea

Stone pine ( Pinus pinea) is a forest tree species native from the Mediterranean basin, so its a native species in Portugal. In fact the Iberian Peninsula account for around 75% from all stone pine distribution in the world.  Stone pine is very well adapted to the Mediterranean in particular is quite drought resistant. Thus, Stone pine is able to cope well in many regions in Portugal where there are not so many  tree species able to do it. This makes Pinus pinea an interesting species from environmental reasons. In addition there has been recently in Portugal highly affected areas of Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) by the pine wilt nematode to which Stone pine has been showing resistance. Still, apart from this talents from Stone pine probably one of the most interesting aspects are the pine nuts produced by this species. Such pine nuts are an highly appreciated delicatessen and attain high values in the market making Stone pine very interesting from the economic point of view.  Despite all these interest aspects from Stone pine there is still a large of lack of research in this species and that is why I believe would be a great step forward if PINEA Project would be approved. Right now PINEA project is waiting to be evaluated let’s see if a chance will be given for such an interesting species.

Rising hopes for cork oak stands

cork oak

On the last Wednesday the 29th of April I had the privilege to attend to refreshing seminar about new technology developments of cork stoppers. This seminar was given by Professor Miguel Cabral which is a Microbiology Professor in the Pharmacy Faculty and the Director for Research and Development of Amorim & Irmãos S. A. at the auditorium from Forestry Department of Technique University of Lisbon where I work. As almost everyone these days might now the most interesting use for cork is as wine and champagne bottle stoppers. In addition, the public opinion is well aware from the threat that screw caps and synthetic closures are making in the use of cork stoppers. This is quite a concern: both because cork stoppers are in itself a better environmental choice as well as because cork oak stands offer a unique habitat where there is a considerable biodiversity.
The seminar as focused in two main topics: (i) Understanding the permeability of closures and (ii) Preventing, control and curative measures to deal with TCA. The permeability study was based on a Ph.D. financed by Amorim & Irmãos S. A. that yielded 3 papers about this issue in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and shows a better understanding of the behaviour of wine bottle closures. It demonstrates that for wines that require ageing the choice of cork stoppers proves technically to be good. Synthetic closures tend to suffer oxidation as they tend to allow a lot of oxygen to enter in the bottle whereas the screw caps tend to lead to reduction in aromas as they tend to allow too little oxygen in the wine bottle. The screw caps of new generation tend to deal a bite better with this issue. Regarding TCA that has appointed one of the main problems of using cork as wine bottle closures it was demonstrated that a lot have changed to deal with it and today is far to be the problem that was just a few years ago. TCA has been taking seriously by the cork industry and a set of measures was established to minimize TCA existence in the cork stoppers. Such measures start straight after the cork harvesting and last until the cork leaves the cork mill. The TCA content is analysed through the process to ensure that the cork stoppers coming out in the mark will have a TCA level below of what is internationally accepted.
In summary: the cork industry has been making an effort to understand the permeability from cork stoppers and minimize the TCA content. What they have shown makes cork technically as a solid alternative as wine bottle closures. Therefore, there are rising hopes for the cork oak stands.


Trees Portugal

I am just starting writing on this blog. I am not sure if I will make it often, we will see. As I am a forester I have chosen to start the first post with a photo of trees. Portugal has major Atlantic and Mediterranean influences and this picture shows a Mediterranean open forest where species like holm and cork oaks predominate. This type of forest if often managed as an agro-forestry system where forest is grown with livestock or some extensive agricultural crops. In Portugal Mediterranean area, recently, another native species has been increasing in distribution: the stone pine. This species is highly adapted to the summer droughts and is very interesting due to the high value from its pine nuts.