Isabel Laguna I Cádiz, (EFE) three great evils that lie in wait for him: aging, the voracious plague of the hairy lizard, and the persistent drought.
Located between the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga and with an extension of 168,000 hectares, the natural park has more than half of its 80,000 hectares of cork oaks (55,000, exactly) affected by the “lymantria Dispar” plague. A caterpillar that devours its leaves. Causing great stress to very weak trees due to their aging. “They are a nursing home”, describes the ecologist Javier Gil-, and at the worst moment, when corkage season arrives and in the middle of the drought.
Do you need an EU banned pesticide?
The “lymantria dispar” is an endemic pest. There are references to its presence in Spain since the 19th century. He visits the cork oak grove cyclically, every nine or ten years, but on this occasion he has done so uncontrollably.
“It has become a serious environmental problem, but also an economic one for the cork industry and a social one. Because hundreds of wages can be lost if corkage cannot be practiced this year,” Oscar Curtido, delegate in Cádiz for the Ministry of Sustainability, Environment and Blue Economy, told EFE.
The plague is about to cause a new confrontation. Between the Junta de Andalucía, with powers in park management, and the central government.
The Board insists on demanding that the Government authorize the exceptional use of the Diflubenzurón asset. A chemical insecticide banned by the EU since 2020, to fumigate the park.
The Board – and the owners of the farms – argue that this chemical was used in the area “without incident.” And that given the “emergency” exceptional authorization could be requested. Since the biological asset (Bacillus Thuringiensis) that has been used to fumigate in 2021 and 2022 this year is not being effective.
The Ministry of Agriculture has denied this request because there are “two authorized alternative products” that can be applied in aerial treatments. And “a large list of products authorized for terrestrial treatment of holm oaks and cork oaks,” according to sources from the department explain to EFE.
“We consider that the necessary conditions established in Community legislation are not met to proceed with the granting of the exceptional authorization requested” for the use of Dimilin, the product with Diflubenzurón, in whose leaflet it can be read: “Very Toxic for aquatic organisms with lasting effects. To avoid it’s releasing into the environment. Pick up the spill…”.
Joya natural incalculable
Minister Ramón Fernández Pacheco, when asked “why” the Government did not ask the EU for this authorization, answered: “perhaps because (Los Alcornocales) does not give it as many votes as other parks. That is why the government of Pedro Sánchez talks about some parks and not others”.
Ecologists in Action believes that using Dimilin to fumigate “a natural jewel of incalculable ecological and cultural value, whose conservation is essential to guarantee the survival of numerous animal and plant species”, would be “killing flies with cannon shots”.
“Bacillus thuringiensis, harmless to the environment, has had little efficacy due to poor administration, neither well nor on time,” Javier Gil, from Ecologistas en Acción, told EFE.
“We do not understand chemical products. But if the nature of this were not a political confrontation because the government has annoyed the Junta with what happened in Doñana, we would continue to rot with the cork oak forest, this will disappear and behind us”, predicts Pavel Sánchez, spokesman for the Cork and Muleteers Association of Andalusia (ACOAN).
The dry, the old age of a cork oak forest without generational relief
“La Almoraima”, with 10,000 hectares and owned by the State, is the largest of the private farms in this park. Its director, Emilio Romero, believes that the situation is “really dramatic.” “We’re at a point of taking action and someone looking at it.”
And it is that this plague affects an old and weak cork oak forest, affected for years by “the dry”, a process with an already remarkable impact: “In La Almoraima, less than half of the cork that was extracted 70 years ago is removed” , says.
This evil has its origin in an opportunistic fungus that takes advantage of the weakness of the trees due to their aging.
“Over the last 40 years the mountain has been depopulated. When man lived in it, he kept the trees very well cared for,” he says, while explaining that this is not the case today, and other uses, such as hunting, have led to a density of herbivores that devours the tree shoots, preventing generational change.
“The environmental associations have been warning that the management of the cork oak forest in recent decades, turning these forests into corrals with a high density of deer, fallow deer, mouflon and pigs crossed with wild boars, was going to have dire consequences in the medium and long term,” he explains. Ecologists in Action.
Drought and corkage
The debate is also between whether or not to uncork this year. When now begins the time to do it in an area from which 30% of national cork is extracted.
“If we uncork, we would subject the cork oak to further stress, we could precipitate the death of the cork oak,” says the director of La Almoraima.
“The economic losses would be enormous and this activity, in addition to being a financial lung for the towns in the area, finances the maintenance of the park,” explains the director of the natural park, Juanma Fornell.
Last year, 5,993,000 kilos of cork were extracted from this park. 3,292,334 were left without taking out, equivalent to 5.7 million euros.
While the Junta de Andalucía has announced an advance of the authorization for corkage. Requested by the owners of the farms, environmentalists believe that this measure prioritizes economic interests over those of the trees. It’s bread for today and hungry for tomorrow”.
“For the health of the tree mass” believe that the administration should consider establishing biological shutdowns with compensation to the sector. As is done with fishing, says Javier Gil, who fears that the Los Alcornocales park, if it does not enter “in the UCI, will end up being called” the park of the bushes. EFE