"In Portugal, Taking a Long View on Cork"

"ESTREMOZ, PORTUGAL — We spent Christmas in a cabin on a hillside in the cork oak forest that clothes much of southern and central Portugal. We hiked along streams awakened by the winter rains. After dinner we walked under shockingly bright stars, undimmed by light pollution, listening to owls and the tinkle of bells from goats."

"Cork oaks, we realized, are the heart of a landscape that while extensively adapted by humans is nevertheless an ecological marvel.

'The cork oak ecosystems have high biodiversity of plants and fauna — the highest in Europe and one of the highest in the world,' said Luisa Ferreira Nunes, a forestry expert at the agriculture school of the Polytechnic Institute of Castelo Branco in Portugal."

Stanley Reed reports for the New York Times January 23, 2013.

Source: NY Times, 01/30/2013