Hotspot of nature
The montado habitat, where the cork oak grows, is home to a wealth of natural biodiversity, including wildlife, grasslands and diverse flora. It has wide variety of species of animals and plants that form part of the food chain centred around the cork oak. The Natura 2000 Network considers the cork oak montados and woods to be important for the preservation of the biodiversity. The montado is still one of the 36 hotspots of the biodiversity, on a par with Amazon, or Borneo.

Balance and Conservation
The cork oak landscapes are among the best examples in the Mediterranean of the balance between conservation and development for the benefit of people and nature. They support a rich biodiversity and traditional means of livelihood, provide opportunities for development in socially and economically disadvantaged areas, and play a fundamental role in ecological processes such as water retention, soil conservation and carbon sequestration.


Natural Biodiversity

The cork oak forests are home to a great natural biodiversity of wild fauna, with 24 species of reptiles and amphibians (53% of all Portuguese species), more than 160 species of birds, and 37 species of mammals (60% of all Portuguese mammals). The cork oak forests provide safety cover and nesting and feeding grounds for many species of wildlife.
The mammals found in cork oak forests include hares, weasels, wolves, genets, wild boars, deer and some Iberian lynxes – the cork oak montados and woods are the preferred habitat of this, the most threatened feline in the world.

The cork oak forests of the Iberian Peninsula are the ideal habitat for millions of birds, such as kestrels, little owls, black storks, eagles, Spanish imperial eagles, kites, black vultures, robins, thrushes, chaffinches and woodpeckers, as well as 60,000 grey herons that migrate here each year from northern Europe. They are also home to hoopoes and bee-eaters, skylarks, starlings, jays, magpies, nightingales, blackcaps and robins, chiffchaffs, nuthatches, sparrows and yellowhammers.

The Tawny Owl, a medium sized nocturnal bird of prey, with grey or reddish-brown plumage and large black eyes, is particularly abundant in cork oak and holm oak montados, and inhabits old trees with lots of holes, and oak trees. The Woodlark, a small lark with brown plumage, a short tail and vestigial crop, nests throughout the territory in a wide variety of habitats, such as open montado. The European robin, a small turdidae with brown plumage, like a bright orange “bib” covering the face and chest; one of the most common birds during winter, it frequents a wide range of tree formations, including cork oak and holm oak montados, cork oak forests, holm oak forests, olive groves, pines, and riparian forests.

Of the 51 Important Areas for Birds in Continental Portugal identified by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA), 11 have significant areas (more than 1000 hectares) of cork and cork oak forests.
Iberian Lynx

Studies conducted in March 2005 found that there are only 100 surviving Iberian lynx, a number far below the 400 recorded in 2000. However, after a review of the Red List of endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, in June 2015, the Iberian lynx was no longer considered internationally as a critically endangered animal, though it continues to be an endangered species
In 2002, the situation was complex; the Iberian lynx was critically endangered and in Portugal, no specimen had been seen in the wild since the beginning of the 1990s. Portugal and Spain have joined forces for its preservation, and the number of lynx has tripled from 52 to 156 in ten years, i.e. from 2002 to 2012. Since then, in the Iberian Peninsula, the program to reintroduce the lynx has been stepped up, with five centres of breeding in captivity, one in Portugal and four in Spain. There are currently eleven lynx in Portugal.

In 2004, the League for the Protection of Nature, in partnership with the international organization Fauna & Flora, launched the Lynx Program to ensure the conservation and long-term management of areas with Mediterranean habitat, such as cork oak forests. One of the objectives of the program was to demonstrate that local economic activities, such as the exploitation of cork, may be compatible with the conservation of habitats and endangered species.

Among the TOP 5 of the most threatened and emblematic species of Portugal, the WWF highlights the Iberian lynx and the Spanish imperial eagle.


135 Species per Square Kilimeter

The layers of underbrush and shrubs are characterized by heather, gorse, broom, lavender, and myrtle , as well as rock-rose and myrtus.
In a study carried out at the Field Station of the Centre for Environmental Biology, in the Serra de Grândola, 264 species of fungi (including 83 edible), 20 liverwort species and 50 mosses were identified.
Many of the species found in the montado are used for aromatic, culinary or medicinal purposes, including various types of lavender, oregano, rosemary, peppermint and foxglove. The harvesting of these plants and subsequent treatment (by drying and distillation) is an important economic resource for the local inhabitants.

Mushrooms are well adapted to the montado habitat. These species play an important role in the decomposition of organic matter in the soil, although some species may be pathogenic. Many species of mushrooms are associated symbiotically with the roots of the cork oak, thus sharing organic food with the tree, which helps absorb nutrients from the soil. The harvesting of mushrooms is a major activity in many montados of the Iberian Peninsula.

The areas of natural pasture of the montados are very rich in different plant species. A total of 135 species have been recorded per square kilometer. The majority of these plants are annual, i.e. they grow, live, produce seed and die within a period of one year.

The Mediterranean has 13,000 species of endemic plants, the second highest number after the tropical Andes, and 150 endemic forest species (native exclusively to a place or region). The cork oak is one of them.



Heterogeneous Habitats

The ecosystems of the regions with Mediterranean climate are particularly rich in fauna and flora, constituting biodiversity hotspots. The montados form heterogeneous habitats, with a “mosaic” of uses that vary from one area of forest to another, usually with varying ages and heights, zones of pasture lands or agriculture, with varied tree density (from 30 or 40 trees to over 100 trees per hectare). The cork oak, the key species of the montado, is at the base of the food chain, which includes insects that feed on its leaves, to the birds that prey on these insects.
The heterogeneity caused by the cork oak canopy gives the system vertical diversity, but also horizontal density, which favours various species of wild fauna and flora due to the niches it creates: differentiated characteristics of microclimate and soil fertility between the areas under the influence of the canopy and the open spaces. Although managed as agricultural/forestry/pastoral systems, with a conditioned multifunctionality, they are comprised of native vegetation.

The areas of natural pasture of the montados are very rich in different plant species, with more than a hundred being recorded in plots of 0.1 hectares. The montados also create safety coverage, and nesting and feeding grounds for several species of fauna, some with protection status.