Comparing cork quality from Hafir-Zarieffet mountain forest (Tlemcen, Algeria) vs. Tagus basin Montado (Benavente, Portugal)
In the southwestern Mediterranean Basin, cork oaks (Quercus suber L.) are periodically harvested for their cork. This natural product is valued by its homogeneity which heightens the importance of characterizing cork tissue discontinuities, or cork pores. Cork porosity profile in natural cork planks has been reported to be affected by forest management practices but, so far, has been scarcely addressed. We characterize the cork porosity profile in two contrasting cork oak woodland; at a mountain forest, in Western Algeria (absence of forest management) and at a peneplain “montado,” in southern Portugal (intensively managed toward the optimization of cork production). Image analysis techniques were applied on transverse sections of more than 40 cork samples from both woodland, and a stepwise discriminant analysis was used to discriminate between the cork pore features data-sets. Cork porosity profiles were similar between regions but; in the cork samples from Algeria, cork pores were having higher values for linear dimensions of pores (length and perimeter) and contrasting shape values (roundness) which depreciate cork quality, when compared to the cork samples from Portugal. However, improved woodland management strategies at Algeria should ensure adequate cork homogeneity and suitability for more valuable cork products.