Life+ SUBER - Life+ SUBER: Integrative management for an improved adaptation of cork oak forests to climate change

LIFE13 ENV/ES/000255

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Contact details:

Contact person: Roser MUNDET
Tel: 34972842708
Email: roser.mundet@forestal.cat

Project description:


Cork oak (Quercus suber) forests are listed in the European Union’s Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) as an important habitat for conservation. This (Annex I-listed) West-Mediterranean habitat grows over approximately 20 000 km2 in the EU – with 65% found mainly in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.

Climate change and cork production are among the main threats to the conservation of this important habitat. Of all the bioclimatic zones, the Mediterranean is considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change. The main foreseen effects of climate change in the Western Mediterranean region are a reduction in rainfall, increased temperatures and an increase in extreme weather events.

For the oak forests, impacts are already starting to appear and include: lower vitality and productivity due to increased water stress; an increase in pests, especially the cork beetle (Coraebus undatus); and an increased frequency of wide-spread forest fires.


The LIFE SUBER project aimed to implement and demonstrate new forest management techniques for European cork oak (Quercus suber) forests, in order to improve their adaptation and resilience to climate change and to enhance their conservation and management prospects. The techniques proposed addressed the main threats identified: climate change, increased pests and the increased frequency of forest fires.

Specific objectives were to:

  • Improve the vitality of cork oak (Quercus suber) forests and mitigate the effects of reduced water availability, while using new forestry techniques to increase the production of cork and associated revenues; li>Improve the structure of forests in order to reduce the impacts of fires, using new forestry techniques;
  • Improve the ecological functions and resilience to climate change of degraded cork oak forests, using innovative forestry restoration techniques;
  • Reduce the damage caused by the cork beetle (Coraebus undatus) using appropriate forestry techniques to control populations and reduce the susceptibility of the cork oak to this pest;
  • Develop forest management tools and make them available to the forest administration, ensuring that climate change adaptation strategies are integrated into forest policy, specifically into regulations for the Catalonian cork forestry sector; and
  • Disseminate the techniques and tools developed at local level (forest owners, managers and cork companies) and within the EU countries concerned (Portugal, France, Italy) in order to: a) improve the management of cork oak forests in Catalonia and southern Europe; and b) raise awareness of the problems addressed and demonstrate that sustainable economic activity based on the management of cork oak forests is the only way to ensure their long-term conservation.


The LIFE SUBER project produced a first-time analysis of the vulnerability of cork oak according to 3 predicted impacts of climate change: water shortages, large forest fires and the impact caused by the cork beetle Coraebus undatus. It focused on implementing pilot demonstrations with innovative silvicultural techniques which will be used by the most important local actors (forest owners, managers, administration and the cork industry) and other actors in the European sub-farming sector. In order to explore how to produce the best results, as well as to test previously established hypotheses, these techniques were implemented collectively. The project achieved the following environmental benefits in the stands in which the new forest management techniques have been implemented:

  • Improvement of growth and vitality of the forests;
  • Improvement of carbon sequestration capacity;
  • Reduction of fire risk and the restoration of degraded cork oak forests, which improves the conditions for natural regeneration.
  • LIFE+ SUBER put into practice the sustainable forest management proposed by the ORGEST models for cork oak forests and edited by the Forest Ownership Center (CPF). One of these models is produced for unevenly-aged tree stands (a contiguous area of trees that contains a number of relatively homogenous characteristics) which have high tree cover to restrict helophytic (marshy) scrub growth, reducing risk of forest fires. The guidelines introduced an innovative clearing system which selectively clears areas, leaving between 30-40% shrub cover intact.

    The project put new silvicultural (forestry) techniques into practice to restore and recover degraded cork oak forests which have been damaged by fire or abandoned by forestry management authorities. It also implemented management guidelines which create a low-density forest structure in strategically-positioned stands. These methods help separate fuel layers and prevent forest fires.

    The team produced various tools to integrate climate change adaptation into forestry policy and the cork subsector regulations. Examples included

  • A GIS (Geographic Information System) application with 3 vulnerability maps. This helps forestry management understand the three main expected impacts of climate change (reduction of water availability, large forest fires and the impact caused by Coraebus undatus);
  • A memorandum of normative (evaluative) aspects which needed to be modified; and
  • A guide with recommendations and measures for cork oak forests to adapt to climate change.
  • These tools were handed over to the different administrative bodies which are responsible for forest management and conservation in the Catalan area.

    On the whole, the project was able to demonstrate new forestry management techniques that can provide the following benefits to the sector:

  • Better maintenance of economic activity linked to the use of cork;
  • A strengthened cork processing industrial sector and its competitive capacity in the face of substitute products;
  • Conservation of the cork oak landscape as a tourism and educational asset;
  • Reduction of large forest fires and related emergencies; and
  • Support for the cultural heritage of cork and its uses;

It is expected that 5 years after the completion of the project the area of cork oak forests managed following the models implemented in the project will be 7 000 hectares. These techniques, together with the developed tools for management and decision support, will contribute to the adaptation and greater resilience of the cork oak forests to climate change, favouring their conservation and the maintenance of the associated value chain.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Forests
Environmental management - Integrated management
Land-use & Planning - Forest management
Risk management - Natural risks (Flood - Forest fire - Landslide)
Species - Plants
Climate change Adaptation - Natural resources and ecosystems


forest ecosystem‚  protected area‚  forest fire‚  decision making support‚  integrated management‚  forestry‚  climate protection‚  forest management‚  pest control

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Consorci Forestal de Catalunya
Type of organisation Professional organisation
Description The Consorci Forestal de Catalunya (Forestry Consortium of Catalonia) is a privately-owned, independent association, representing the interests of Catalonia’s forestry owners. Its main goals are: to represent and safeguard the interests of forest owners; to promote sustainable forest management and the harmonisation of the economic, social and environmental functions of forests; to provide technical and legal support and advice to its members, keeping them informed and facilitating the exchange of knowledge and experiences; and to consolidate the structure of the forestry sector.
Partners CTFC(Centre Tecnològic Forestal de Catalunya), Spain CPF(Centre de la Propietat Forestal), Spain AFL(Amorim Florestal, SA), Portugal FCSA(Forestal Catalana SA), Spain


Project reference LIFE13 ENV/ES/000255
Duration 01-JUL-2014 to 30-JUN -2018
Total budget 1,097,039.00 €
EU contribution 547,337.00 €
Project location Cataluña(España)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan (Spanish version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Video link Project's video (4')


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version